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Old 09-07-2010, 02:25 PM
 
Location: Central NJ
4 posts, read 2,236 times
Reputation: 10
Default NJ writing geek seeks basic NYC info

Okay, to explain. I'm a 26 y/o guy from New Jersey - by day I'm training to be a paralegal, by night I...Well, no, I don't fight crime, and Batman probably lives in Long Island...But I do write. You'll never see me published, let alone paid to write, I'm not that good, but I do write short fiction - sometimes short stories, sometimes collaborative-writing sorts of things, all with the goal of "write good stories, and maybe kill stress, too".

Previously I wrote science-fiction, where I developed a habit of doing a lot of research or world-building before I ever put fingers to keyboard on a story.

Now I'm looking to write stuff set in the modern day; Stories focusing (in part) on a rookie NYPD cop and his adventures/misadventures/existence (as well as the stories of the command he's assigned to), but also in part on the precinct he's assigned to, in terms of the precinct as a territory. (I'm still narrowing down which precinct to fictionalize, I'll probably wind up looking somewhere in Manhattan.)

And I can find plenty of info about the NYPD; reading cop forums and books does a lot to fill in gaps.

But in terms of the second part of that, I'm stuck. Not only can I not find info about some fairly basic things, I can't find where to ask.

(Before someone says "Take the train up to NYC and dial 311" or something: I live in Monmouth County. I'm disabled, IRL. Getting up to the city would be difficult - it's why I describe NYC as being "a mysterious place; I know people who commute to it, and even people who lived there during college, but it's mostly a mystery" - especially since, as I mentioned, I'm a student at my local community college, which means I don't really have extra money.)

So I figured I'd ask here. Diligent internet searching that had me up til the wee hours did not, in the end, answer these questions, so I was hoping people on the Internet, especially if they live in the city, might be able to help me find the answers.

If you can't answer em all, that's okay, it'd be helpful just to get answers to some of them. I know they seem like a horde of questions, something for which I apologize in advance - I'm trying to not clutter things up with too many threads. Mods, if that's actually not a problem and I should split this up, feel free to bop me with something, lock the thread, or something.

Sorting these by agencies I couldn't pull info from the maws of; Before anyone asks, I couldn't find a Public Information unit (in FDNY's case) or any equivalent sort of communications/public affairs office (in the other cases) to contact. The websites were unhelpful - and while I tried to search here, my search skills are evidently weak.

---
FDNY (including EMS):

Okay, I couldn't find absurdly basic stuff on FDNY, but I'll keep my questions to stuff any random city-dweller might be able to answer, and I'll hunt for a fire-geek sort of place that might accept questions from a clueless observer for my other stuff.

For a "cop story" set, I'm thinking it might be helpful (just on the off-chance it becomes relevant) to know, before I go in, the things like "Where's the local firehouse", "Where's the local EMS base", "Which units cover the precinct's turf", etc. FDNY, naturally, doesn't have anything like NYPD's "precinct finder" gadget on its website...So I'll ask people living in the city:

A. Is that actually important info to know? Do city-dwellers know which fire/EMS units cover them, where the local firehouse is, etc. in the same way they (seem to) know which NYPD precinct they live in?

B. Is there any way to find out that info, regardless? Just in case it somehow becomes story-relevant, it'd be good to have handy.

C. Do fire companies (or EMS units) in the FDNY actually have geographic areas of responsibility?

D. Not really FDNY-related, but fire related, so...Looking through other threads here, I see tale that a lot of apt buildings don't have fire escapes. Maybe because I've lived my whole life in the suburbs (and went to college in Scranton, PA, which is a weird, sad city IRL, that I kind of prefer to forget...), but I sucked in a lot of breath at that. Is that actually common, or allowed by code? (Or nevermind code, is it safe in practice?)

---
Next come the schools. Here I was able to find info...Sort of...But not really able to put it into context. So I'm asking here, in hopes people might be able to explain it to me. Insideschools.org explained a bit that the DOE website didn't.

(I should note that I'm asking about the standard public schools, not charters or alternative schools.)

1. High schools: Geographic? City-wide? Does it depend on the school? The DOE website was unclear when I poked it. Actually, I couldn't find much of anything re high schools.

2. Bzuh. The DOE is under Mayoral control, run by the Schools Chancellor. I get that. But certainly, there's gotta be organization between the principal running "PS #/IS #" (and however they designate high schools) and the DOE central office. Is there? (No info on the website...)

3. Community input: Usually, in NJ, it's provided by the school board that runs the whole thing. But NYC, obviously, doesn't have that, and NYC's a big city anyway. So...I notice the Community Boards more generally - is there any sort of community input/oversight mechanism for the schools, like community school boards or something? Or does everybody flood the central office with their issues about their specific schools?

4. Is there a standardized school-opening and school-closing time? (For example, do all elementary schools start at a certain time of day, then let out at a certain time of day, city-wide? What about middle schools or high schools?)

---

And here comes a question that fit nowhere else. I feel sort of stupid for asking this, but...

1. Curse Google Earth for not (apparently) showing the boundary between Queens and Nassau County; I can't tell which towns/neighborhoods are on which side of the line (ie, which bits are part of NYC, and which are just bordering NYC). Help?

And...Yeah, that's enough questions from me. I'll go back to my corner now.
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Old 09-07-2010, 04:15 PM
 
Location: New York NY
2,382 posts, read 2,157,282 times
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With two kids in pubic schools I can aswer these education questions easy -- and yes the DOE Web site sucks big time. (you want more help about the schools try a web site insideschools.org which has a lot of the basic info in easy to read and find formats) But here's for starters. and maybe somebody else cand help you with the non-education questions.

1. High schools: Geographic? City-wide? Does it depend on the school? The DOE website was unclear when I poked it. Actually, I couldn't find much of anything re high schools.

there are only neighborhood high schools in a few areas of the city anymore, out in parts of Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Isnand, I believe. But all kids have to apply formally to high school. They can pick any high school in the city and list up to 12 of them in order of preference. the highest one on their list that takes them is the one shot they get. even the Queens kid who wants to go to his local zoned school has to go through this process and list the local zoned school, say Forest Hills HS, on his list. And no matter whether you list 1 school or 12, you only get one match. Its harrowing experience for kids as both mine have gone through it. complicating matters more is that each HS has its own admissions standards--interviews, writing samples, grade cutoffs etc. At the most popular ones thousands of kids vie for maybe a hundred seats.

The only exception is the specialized high schools (Bronx Science, Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, and a bunch of new ones) where kids that THE TEST--the infamous Specialized High School Admissions test, given just once a year. These schools look at no other criteria and take kids from the highest score to the lowest until the class is filled. But if you do get into one these, then you ALSO get to pick a regular school from yr list of 12. So a few kids--about 5000 out of 90,000 get two choices of HS. And every year, there are kids who dont make the cut at the specialized HS or a regular HS on the list of 12 and have to scramble to find a placement.


2. Bzuh. The DOE is under Mayoral control, run by the Schools Chancellor. I get that. But certainly, there's gotta be organization between the principal running "PS #/IS #" (and however they designate high schools) and the DOE central office. Is there? (No info on the website...)

schools can have different oversight. charter schools are accountable to the chartering organization, for example the NY state board of regents, but get operating funds from the regular DOE budget and private sources as well. other schools can be accountable to a nonprofit supervisiory group, like Urban Assembly or New Visions, both of which have started up a string of new high schools. yet others -- mainly elem and MS--are directly accountable to the district school boards, whose power has been radically diminished from a generation ago. the chancellor's office devises citywide regs for all schools except charters. but this is a complicatd one depending on what level of school you'r talking about and what the complaint is, so check me. i could be wrong here.

3. Community input: Usually, in NJ, it's provided by the school board that runs the whole thing. But NYC, obviously, doesn't have that, and NYC's a big city anyway. So...I notice the Community Boards more generally - is there any sort of community input/oversight mechanism for the schools, like community school boards or something? Or does everybody flood the central office with their issues about their specific schools?

see above. but people do flood the meetings of the board of ed (called something else now and i forget what) for big issues like the closing of schools or the cell phone ban

4. Is there a standardized school-opening and school-closing time? (For example, do all elementary schools start at a certain time of day, then let out at a certain time of day, city-wide? What about middle schools or high schools?)

this is all over the map. most schools begin at around 830 or so and let out at three, but there are many many exeptions. one public noncharter middle school on the west side i heard even meets only four days a week, but goes until four. and charters typcially have longer days.

Hope that helps. And one other question i can help you with. Almost every New yorker knows where his firehouse is and the local precinct. Every time a budget crisis comes around and they want to close a fiorehouse to save money, im surprised you can't hear the screams way out there in Jersey

Last edited by citylove101; 09-07-2010 at 04:34 PM..
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Old 09-07-2010, 04:20 PM
 
Location: Central NJ
4 posts, read 2,236 times
Reputation: 10
We do hear the screams, yes. But I always wondered whether that happened just because of the unions or whether people actually knew, for example, where their local firehouse is. (Because annoyingly, FDNY does not have any equivalent to NYPD's nifty "precinct finder" gadget on their website.)
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Old 09-07-2010, 04:33 PM
 
Location: New York NY
2,382 posts, read 2,157,282 times
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No, it happens because people know where their firehouse is, I can guarantee you that. They many not want to live next to a firehouse, but they do want close by coverage. i suspect that you do some searching around the New York city Planning Commission or the the Community Planning Boards, you might find maps with firehouse locations on them, though they might only be by district.

Oh, and a good Hagstroms city map will be very clear about city boundaries and aslo mark off neighborhoods too.
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Old 09-07-2010, 05:00 PM
 
901 posts, read 2,031,099 times
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I found this map of the firehouses (may be outdated):

Map Builder::FDNY Firehouse Locations

Some of the houses have websites that describe their coverage area.

Fire Department of New York - Squad 18

"Squad 18 works as an engine company on all fire box alarms in its first, second, and 3rd due areas. Covering much of the lower half of Manhattan, Squad 18 is dispatched as a squad/special service company to all 10-75's and specialized rescue calls, including HazMat, south of 90th Street on the West Side, and South of 75th Street on the East Side."
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Old 09-07-2010, 05:48 PM
 
Location: Central NJ
4 posts, read 2,236 times
Reputation: 10
Found the firehouses, planning dept map. Woohoo.
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Old 09-07-2010, 11:56 PM
 
Location: Washington, DC & New York
9,285 posts, read 15,094,275 times
Reputation: 4946
For all kinds of great map-based information, check out the following from NYC.gov: NYCityMap • DoITT • City-Wide GIS

If you zoom in on the city-wide map, you will find the neighborhoods that are in Queens near the Nassau border. Some can be misleading, like Floral Park, which is both a neighborhood in Queens and a village in adjacent Nassau County.

You can also add in all kinds of municipal districts from police precincts to fire company, battalion, etc. and school districts -- click on "Show Additional Data on Map" on the lower right. It's interactive, so when you add in the fire company, for example, move your mouse on the screen and the map will tell you the company and show its borders. You can also find fire stations, EMS stations, etc. on the map. The data will also tell you the size of the fire division and the approximate number of residents served -- just click on the screen when you have highlighted the desired area (will be in yellow).
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Old 09-08-2010, 05:43 AM
 
Location: Central NJ
4 posts, read 2,236 times
Reputation: 10
squee, thanks everybody!
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Old 09-08-2010, 12:11 PM
 
Location: Brooklyn
40,060 posts, read 19,107,591 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Penta View Post
And here comes a question that fit nowhere else. I feel sort of stupid for asking this, but...

1. Curse Google Earth for not (apparently) showing the boundary between Queens and Nassau County; I can't tell which towns/neighborhoods are on which side of the line (ie, which bits are part of NYC, and which are just bordering NYC). Help?
You can actually determine which communities are in Queens and which are in Nassau via our friendly local Postal Service. All Queens zip codes begin with either 111, 113, 114 or 116. If you see one prefixed with 110, 115 or 117, that's Nassau County!
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