03/25/13 10:00am

NOW ON YOUR MOBILE DEVICE: WHY YOU CAN’T BREATHE A team comprising researchers at UH, Air Alliance Houston, and the American Lung Association have launched OzoneMap, an app that “monitors chemical weather,” reports John Metcalfe of The Atlantic blog Cities. And whether the app helps explain your coughing fit or alerts you to the chance of a really pretty toxic sunset, the best part is that it’s only available in Houston! And why Houston, of all places? Besides the industrial flares, that is? Here’s Metcalfe: “The Houston/Baytown/Huntsville region comes in eighth place for most ozone-polluted cities in America, as ranked by the American Lung Association. Persistently sunny weather, a battalion of petrochemical facilities and scads of fuming cars on the road make Houston a nightmare for anyone who’s chemically sensitive. For these folks, walking outside is like playing a lower-stakes version of Russian roulette, with 30 to 40 days of the year fogged with hazardous levels of ozone.” [Cities; previously on Swamplot] Map: Cities

03/21/13 4:45pm

ROGER GOODELL: 2,500 EXTRA PARKING SPACES DOES SOUND PRETTY GOOD The study paid for by the Texans and the Rodeo that found the Astrodome could be torn down and replaced with 2,500 parking spots for $29 million — the one Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said he’s putting on his shelf — has apparently made its way to the desk of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who seems to have crunched the numbers in light of Houston’s impending bid to host the 2017 Super Bowl. Goodell, reports the Houston Chronicle‘s John McClain, says he doesn’t want to get involved in the dome demo drama right before getting involved:That issue is for the community to decide, but I think having an extra 2,500 parking spaces would enhance Houston’s bid.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Russell Hancock

03/21/13 10:30am

THE END COMING FOR MARFRELESS IN RIVER OAKS And the low-light, low-key make-out den behind that signless blue door in the River Oaks Shopping Center says it’s closing at the end of March in a press release quoted here in the Houston Chronicle: “Marfreless’s owners have been trying to do whatever they could to keep the bar operational but other entities involved weren’t budging in regards to the rising cost of doing business, making it impossible to keep the business at this location.” Serving martinis and discreetly turning the other way as couples have gone at it for 40 years, Marfreless says it’s looking for another location. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Flickr user jmcgeough

03/20/13 10:00am

JUDGE EMMETT NOT IMPRESSED BY TEXANS, RODEO PLAN TO DEMOLISH THE ASTRODOME A study paid for by the Houston Texans and the Livestock Show and Rodeo has determined that tearing down the Astrodome will cost a hair more than $29 million, reports Fox 26, but Harris County judge Ed Emmett doesn’t seem all that moved by the study’s finding: “Unless there’s something there I didn’t see when it came across my desk, all I saw were two or three options for how to demolish it and turn it into a parking lot. I know that’s their position. I’m not denigrating it, but that doesn’t really move the ball anywhere.” And what’s Emmett going to do with the study? “Read it and put it on a shelf. . . . It’s not meaningful at all.” [Fox 26; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Candace Garcia

03/19/13 4:30pm

UNMARKED GRAVES UNCOVERED IN DICKINSON AFRICAN-AMERICAN CEMETERY Over the weekend, volunteers clearing brush and whacking weeds at the Magnolia Cemetery, the African-American cemetery between League City and Dickinson near FM 646 and Highway 3, found hundreds of unmarked graves that date back before the Emancipation Proclamation. Now, reports abc13’s Erik Barajas, the Galveston County Historical Commission is working to identify the graves as the cemetery seeks state designation and protection as a historic site: Pastor William H. King III of Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, behind which sits Magnolia Cemetery, tells Barajas: “‘There are slaves buried here. There are people from World War I, World War II, school teachers, people who worked in the community. . . . We want to make sure.'” [abc13] Photo: USGenWeb

03/19/13 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: CHURCH OF THE SHUTTERED WALMART “Conversion into Goodwill and flea markets has a kind of internal logic. Can’t say the idea that school district administrators are overflowing into defunct Walmarts soothes me all that much, but that’s a personal foible. I expect before it’s all over a fair number of Walmarts will house, for a couple hours a week anyway, new-style churches for people who are ‘broken and hurting.’ Other uses might be these feeding sites I’ve been hearing about and even college. An old Walmart’s as good a place as any to earn your degree in leadership. . . . ” [luciaphile, commenting on And That Makes Two: Construction Begins on Idylwood Walmart]

03/19/13 12:00pm

MACGREGOR PARK’S MLK MEMORIAL TREE ‘DOESN’T LOOK GOOD’ Last spring, Metro spent $100,000 to relocate this tree out of the way of the expanding Southeast Line. Planted in 1983 near Old Spanish Trail and MLK Blvd., the tree was meant to stand in for an MLK memorial that’s still to come. While Metro crews worked in May to transplant the tree a few hundred feet away to a site inside MacGregor Park, Black Heritage Society president Ovide Duncantell chained himself to it to make sure everything went off without a hitch. But now the 30-year-old tree’s “strugging to survive,” reports the Houston Chronicle‘s Robert Stanton: “‘The tree doesn’t look good to me,'” Duncantell tells Stanton. “‘I’m not in a position to say that tree is dying, but I’m hoping like hell that it’s not. The city . . . and Metro have a commitment to our organization that the tree would continue to stand there as a sentinel until that statue is completed. They should have been watering the tree all along, and this wouldn’t be a question. . . . Somebody fumbled the ball.'” Stanton adds that Metro has been watering it through an irrigation system and said it would “step up monitoring.” [Houston Chronicle] Photo: KHOU

03/18/13 4:45pm

MOVING DAY AT MARYLAND MANOR A Swamplot reader sends in this update on the progress at 1717 Bissonnet, where the Maryland Manor apartments are still standing in the way of the Ashby Highrise: “I live around the block . . . and it looks like all the tenants are out. We have noticed fewer and fewer cars in the parking lot, but as of this weekend they are down to only 3-5 cars. We saw multiple moving trucks all weekend and lots of abandoned furniture at the dumpster. So I am guessing the demo is starting soon.” [Swamplot inbox; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Maryland Manor: Candace Garcia

03/18/13 2:00pm

POOP SCIENCE COMES TO FAIRMONT MUSEUM DISTRICT APARTMENTS And one of the “amenities” that the doubling-in-size Fairmont Museum District wasn’t ready to announce would seem to be that poop detection service picking up steam in Dallas: Houston Chronicle’s Carol Christian reports that the Richmond and Dunlavy apartment complex that’s right beside Ervan Chew Park has already asked tenants to submit their pets’ DNA to hasten the resolution of these mistakes most foul: The main reason we decided to try [PooPrints] was because we had a specific issue on one of our floors with accidents,” Fairmont manager Molly Kalish tells Christian. Still, the whodunit service seems to have a few bumps, since it provides no way to sniff out a motive or track a rogue agent: “ . . . DNA testing did not identify any [Fairmont] tenant’s dog as the recent accident-prone culprit,” reports Christian, “suggesting that a visitor might have been responsible.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Fairmont Museum District: Allyn West

03/15/13 1:30pm

DNA TESTING HELPING TEXAS APARTMENTS DELIVER JUSTICE TO UNSCOOPED DOG POOP Up in Dallas, reports Click2Houston, dozens of apartment complexes are requiring tenants to file their dog’s DNA. That way, any poop that’s not cleaned up can be directed to the proper authorities — that’d be PooPrints, which uses as-seen-on-TV crime-fighting technology to test the waste for DNA and finger any owner who’s not minding his dog’s business. PooPrints CEO Cedric Moses says that his company doesn’t have any contracts yet in Houston, but he has a distributor headquartered in League City who has a nose to the ground. [Click2Houston] Photo: Houston Pooper Scoopers

03/15/13 12:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE DIRTY TRUTH ABOUT THE HOTEL ZAZA’S THEME ROOMS “You want the low down from an insider? I worked there for a year as a concierge. The dirty truth is that there is no dirt. There are seven multi-room suites, ten one-room concept suites and four smaller sized silly themed rooms. The smaller themed rooms are a result of the owners having too much fun while designing and decorating the hotel. They really do think the rooms are funny, it’s sad. The room in question is lovingly referred to as “The Martha Stewart” among staff. It’s not a secret, but most people don’t want to stay in it because it is so tiny. The hotel was built when bathrooms were in the hallway for guests to share so cramming a bathroom into every room made some of them very, very small. Occasionally when a guest checks in and is assigned to a room the person at the front desk forgets about the smaller themed rooms (either because they are new or because they just don’t pay enough attention) and the guest will asked to move to another room if they don’t like the size. Guests are never “paid off” to not talk about it, if they raise a big stink we would send them a bottle of champagne or offer them breakfast on the house, most people just ask what it is and have a laugh. If you go in for a tour (tell them you are thinking of staying for a birthday or something and they will show you some rooms if it’s not busy in the lobby) and ask to see the four smaller rooms they will most likely show you. So there you have it, any questions? [Cash,former employee, commenting on No, Says Hotel ZaZa, Room 322 Isn’t an Expensive Bondage Dungeon for Creeps, It’s Just Different]

03/15/13 11:00am

ACTUALLY, SAY CRITICS, ‘ONE BIN FOR ALL’ MAYBE NOT BEST IDEA Mayor Parker’s prize-winning garbage program was questioned yesterday by activists and environmentalists, reports Hair Balls’ Vanessa Piña — especially because the $1 million the city won from Mayor Bloomberg seems awfully puny in light of the expected $100 million the new sorting facility could cost. And, reports Piña, critics are suggesting that “One Bin for All” seems kinda unnecessary: “There is a successful partnership between the city and waste management, and material is daily being handled. Waste Management’s single stream sorting facilities are running at an estimated 50 percent of capacity and can easily handle more if the city will only provide more carts to our citizens,” says Leo Gold. And here’s Dr. Robert Bullard, public affairs dean at Texas Southern: “For someone who has done research and written more than 18 books on this stuff it is rather odd that we would be opting for an unproven, risky idea.” [Hair Balls; previously on Swamplot] Photo of recycling bin in the Heights: Charles Kuffner

03/13/13 2:00pm

GARBAGE PROGRAM STILL ‘ABSOLUTELY DOABLE,’ SAYS MAYOR PARKER So Houston’s “One Bin for All” idea didn’t win the $5 million grand prize in Mayor Bloomberg’s philanthrophic challenge — but it did tie for second. And that means $1 million will be coming Houston’s way, along with $50,000 extra for being so darn lovable and winning the “fan favorite” vote online. And what’s the city going to do with all this dough? The Houston Chronicle’s Carol Christian reports that the consolation prizes might be just enough to get the program off the ground: Though the idea to combine garbage, recycling, and yard waste into one big bin for mechanized sorting later has been around for awhile, Mayor Parker says, “This award will allow us the seed money to begin the process . . . We have thoroughly researched the technology. It’s absolutely doable.” Construction on a new sorting facility could begin as early as 2014, reports Christian. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of recycling bin in the Heights: Charles Kuffner

03/12/13 4:00pm

$17.5M TO BE SPENT REPAIRING BATTLESHIP TEXAS Leaking and taking on Ship Channel water since last summer, Battleship Texas will be receiving some structural repairs beginning this April: Texas Parks and Wildlife announced today — the 99th anniversary of the ship’s call to action — that a $17.5 million contract with a North Carolina firm will cover “about half” the repairs needed; they’ll be “a first step,” says TPWD’s Scott Stover, to ready the sinking ship for its eventual dry berth. During the repairs, history seekers and field trippers should still be able to see some significant sights: “[T]he ship will remain open to the public as conditions allow, and visitors will see plenty of activity at the site, as well as construction equipment and an access barge on the north side of the ship.” [Texas Parks and Wildlife; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Candace Garcia

03/11/13 4:00pm

A FEW LAST LOOKS AT MACY’S And that’s it. After 66 years, there’s no more shopping to be done. Macy’s is closed. Swamplot photographer Candace Garcia finds a perch Downtown from which to take this farewell photo of Kenneth Franzheim’s former Foley’s — and Hair Balls’ Abraham Garza goes inside for a few last looks of the liquidation as the business hours dwindled on Saturday to zero. Garza says: “The only items I saw for sale, other than fixtures and empty jewelry cases were mink coats.” [Hair Balls; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Candace Garcia