OSM Hiking 2

Downloading Hiking Data From Open Street Map

Recently, I needed to import hiking trail data into ArcGIS for a project aimed at increasing trail connectivity throughout Suffolk County on Long Island. There are several sites that allow you to download .GPX files for trails but it would take forever to download and import them all separately.

Instead, I used the below tool to select the area of interest and export all hiking/footpaths in Open Street Map. This proved to be wildly more successful than I had expected. A useful side effect of importing data this way (for this project, at least) was that it only imported true pedestrian trails, not “trails” that are actually just walking along the side of the road.

You can also follow this guide if you need to download data for buildings, points of interest, restaurants, roads, rails, bridges, water, and so many other preset categories. While there was a preset for footpaths, many of the trails were categorized as other pedestrian “highways” so I had to manually add others that I found on the Open Street Map wiki.

I encourage you to research the category you’re trying to find on Open Street Map and see what others exist if the presets aren’t importing everything you need: https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Category:Key_descriptions

To import hiking trail data into ArcGIS (or other programs that support .shp/shapefiles) in your community, visit this link: https://export.hotosm.org/en/v3/exports/new/describe

You will be prompted to create an account with Open Street Map and the HOT Export Tool. Name your project and click next. Change the export to .Shp unless you need it in another format and click next.

Paste this into the YAML tab, replacing anything that was there:

    - lines
    - highway
    - highway='footway'
    - highway='path'
    - highway='track'
    - highway='sidewalk'
    - highway='steps'
    - highway='pedestrian'
    - highway='bridleway'

Finally, draw the area of interest on the map. There is a limit to this area but I was able to fit my entire county. You can always do the export in multiple pieces. On the summary tab, I clicked Unfiltered files but I don’t know if that’s needed.

Once it’s done, you will get an email. Download and import the shape file as you normally would!

Now, there are definitely some missing trails but if I were to be working on a specific area, I could always download the .GPX file from AllTrails and convert it here: https://mygeodata.cloud/converter/gpx-to-shp

Screenshot 2020-11-13 004612

Long Island Wedding Venue Spreadsheet

I recently spent countless hours preparing a massive spreadsheet to compare the seemingly endless wedding venues across Long Island. When all the work was done, and we had chosen our venue, I figured I would share this information with the world… it’s better to share it than to have it sit and rot on some drive, right?

I posted it to LIWeddings.com and I was promptly banned. I have not heard back from them about this, even after reaching out about it but I assume the site is controlled by venues or people who have an interest in not sharing information publicly. Well, who cares! Banning me only made me want to post it more so here it is.

This sheet may be of particular interest if you happen to be a vegetarian or if you’re looking for a dog friendly venue (outdoor ceremony). It may be of use to you even if you’re not from Long Island if you’re willing to clear the data and use the formulas to help narrow down you search in another area. I have it set to estimate the cost of additional vendors based on whether or not they’re included in the package price. I estimated taxes and fees as well.

The prices and ratings are deemed to be current as of October 2020 for an April 2022 wedding. After visiting 10 of these venues and ultimately choosing one, I would definitely say that while a spreadsheet is useful for gathering initial information, it can only guide you so far. There were venues that looked good on paper but in reality, were not good choices for us. But hey, everyone has their own priorities!

I hope this helps someone with their wedding planning journey. Feel free to reach out if you have questions!

Here it is: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1wHHRjedJzq3IKAGPIkfmIXTh-I1O7BXJv0gjqAucBNA/edit?usp=sharing

VHS Digitizing Service

Do you have old family VHS tapes that have been sitting for years in a closet because you don’t have a VHS player anymore? Do you want to be able to share these videos with your family in this digital age? I might be able to help! Send me a box of your old tapes and I will digitize them for just $10/tape. I can digitize normal VHS tapes as well as the small format (VHS-C) type. Return shipping to the domestic United States is free.

The tapes will be recorded in MP4 format at 640×480 resolution (higher than the original resolution for posterity) and at about 30FPS.

The tapes will be cropped to remove most of the blue screen at the beginning and end with the exception of a few second buffer on each end to ensure I’ve recorded everything on the tape. For each tape sent, you will receive one video file in return with the full filmed footage.

I will upload the files to Google Drive where they will be stored for up to a month before being taken down. You will receive a link and will have one month to download them to your own device.

I accept PayPal, Venmo Zelle and cash payments. You may pay with a credit card if I send an invoice to PayPal (you do not need a PayPal account).

Before I send the tapes back, and before I send the digital copies of your tapes, I require full payment.

If you’re interested, submit the form here:

25 Non-Dairy Yogurt Ratings (May 2020)

With so many new choices, I was overwhelmed by the recent expansion by traditional yogurt makers to the non-dairy sector. To help myself navigate this growing sector, I started rating every non-dairy yogurt I tried.

Below, you’ll find a simple list of every non-dairy yogurt I could get my hands on (except most soy yogurts… I try to limit my soy intake). In general, the mid range yogurts are not bad but they were often too high in sugar to give a very high rating. I was impressed by how even the lowest yogurt rating was edible. I gave no yogurt a zero or one star rating. I may amend this as I try some of the early yogurts for a second time. Also, since this is generally a product that can only be purchased in-store, I was not compensated for any recommendations, nor was I given any free samples.

Hope this helps someone and if you have any recommendations for others to try, let me know!

** Kite Hill Almond Vanilla

** LAVA Pineapple (Pili Nuts, Coconut and Plantains)

** Silk Oat Yeah Vanilla

** So Delicious Oat Sweet Mango

*** Almond Breeze Almond Milk Vanilla

*** Chobani Coconut Vanilla

*** Chobani Oat Peach Coconut Crisp

*** Chobani Oat Strawberry Granola Crunch

*** Daiya Coconut Cream Strawberry

*** Good Karma Flaxmilk Strawberry

*** Kite Hill Almond Key Lime

*** So Delicious Coconut Vanilla

*** Stonyfield Soy Vanilla

**** Chobani Oat Blueberry Almond Crumble

**** Chobani Oat Blueberry Pomegranate

**** Chobani Oat Strawberry Vanilla

**** Chobani Oat Vanilla

**** Good Plants Almond Milk Lemon Meringue

**** LAVA Strawberry (Pili Nuts, Coconut and Plantains)

**** Ripple Peas Vanilla

**** Trader Joes Cashew Vanilla Bean

**** Trader Joes Coconut Blueberry

**** Trader Joes Coconut Strawberry

***** Forager Cashew Milk Blueberry

***** Forager Cashew Milk Vanilla


Fossil Hybrid Smartwatch HR – Collider

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any tech products but I think this watch deserves a mention.

My first smartwatch was the Fitbit Force. Next was the Moto 360, then another two Fitbits, then the Galaxy Watch and now, this watch: The Fossil Hybrid HR Collider.

While I’ve always loved Fitbit’s competitive community and battery life, I just never liked their physical design. Their watches were designed to look like fitness trackers, not watches. They never utilized OLED screens so always on was not really possible.

When I was on the Android Wear/Tizen watches, they could barely make it through the day with always on enabled so I ended up sacrificing having sleep data in return for a watch that looked somewhat more like a watch.

This watch is the perfect medium for me. Sure, it has limited apps that can be connected to the watch but it includes Messenger, email and texts (and Snapchat of all apps), which is all I would ever want on my wrist. It can still control my music but doesn’t have a speaker so I cannot take calls from it. It doesn’t have a GPS so I can’t track exercises but I always have my phone on me anyway so it wasn’t really a need. Even though it is an e-ink watch, it can show me texts way faster than the Galaxy Watch because there are no animations.

I finally have a watch that actually lasts well over a week without sacrificing the heart rate and sleep tracking that actually looks good. This is HUGE.

I hope that Fossil continues to add more software updates to this watch to make it an even cleaner experience but even where it is right now is enough for me to give this watch my highest recommendations.

If you’re interested in buying a pair, check Fossil’s website. I got mine on Black Friday but I was able to combine their email discount offer with another coupon code.


Ronkonkoma Hub: Exaggerations and Evictions

The Ronkonkoma Hub is open (at least, part of it) and it looks great! Usually, I would thrilled! It checks so many boxes:

  • Transit Oriented Development
  • Above Average Rental Amenities
  • Mixed Use Buildings Planned
  • Higher Density Development
  • State Economic Development Funding

While I really want to be happy for this redevelopment project, the rental company managing the property, Bozzuto, is deeply exaggerating qualities of the property.

Here’s a quote from Alston’s (the name of the residences) website: “Imagine stepping out your door to enjoy Pindar wines and Briermere pies, a Lobster Roll lunch with a Crooked Ladder brew. That’s a taste of what’s to come at Station Square.”

Google Maps directions from the Alston Apartments to the three featured places to visit.

Well, they’re not technically lying because they didn’t say how many steps you would be taking but it’s a 30-minute drive to Crooked Ladder, 35-minute drive to Briermere and a 50-minute drive to Pindar.

What’s frustrating about this is not the blatant exaggeration but the fact that you need a car to go to most of these places. To visit Crooked Ladder and the rest of Riverhead’s downtown, you could foreseeably take a train from Ronkonkoma for almost the same price and time as going to Manhattan on any of the three daily trains out there. Transit oriented developments are supposed to be pedestrian friendly – and that’s just what they claim on their website!

“All in an exciting, walkable community alive with possibilities.”

Other than going to the city by train, you’re pretty much out of luck if you want to enjoy much other than a good slice of pizza at Slices and Ices and a cut at Mica D’s barber shop without a car.

But those very stores are in danger of being forced out in a future phase of the redevelopment. What services are Tritec or the State going to offer to help these businesses relocate? Will they be able to afford to relocate to one of the new mixed-use shops in Alston Square? I can only hope so!

Here’s another quote from their website: “The Village Green and pocket parks of Station Square are surrounded by state and local parks in every direction.”

A view of all State, County, Town owned parcels near the Ronkonkoma Hub (excluding MacArthur Airport which is under “Airport Inn Inc”). Source: Suffolk County GIS Portal.

Where are these parks? The only significant piece of woodland/open space nearby is absolutely threatened to be cleared for this very development project! The other small wooded pieces are primarily sumps.

They could be talking about the Lake Ronkonkoma beach (which you can’t swim at), Lily Pond County Park, Commerdinger County Park, Lakeland County Park or Connetquot River State Park but none of these public parks are contiguous with the project nor are they easily walkable. In their defense though, you could feasibly walk to Lake Ronkonkoma in a half hour and there is already existing sidewalk 95% of the way to the original downtown.

“Lake Ronkonkoma is being restored to become a beautiful gathering place for the whole community”

I haven’t seen any plans to revitalize the original downtown. Currently, one of its largest anchor institutions just closed (King Kullen), it has lost its local pharmacy (Slater), hardware store (Agnew & Taylor) and many other stores are just plain ole empty.

“Alston is minutes away from MacArthur Airport, across the street from the Ronkonkoma Station on the LIRR, and just off the Long Island Expressway.”

Finally, some truth! I would imagine the proximity to these amenities could get noisy, though.

You can get all this for $2,300/month!

Even worse than the exaggerations on their website, the company, with state backing, has forcibly pushed out many businesses without any support for where they relocate to. Landowners are being offered “fair market value” and are being told to take it or leave it. Worse, renters have no financial support to cover any costs associated with relocation.

Much of the initial press labelled these businesses as “blighted” while, in reality, they probably employed more people in the long term than these apartments ever could. Here’s a list of the businesses that I could find that have been kicked out:

  • Krav Maga
  • Keen’s Machine Repair
  • Allegiance Engine
  • United Fence & Guard Rail Corp.
  • Pro-Cise Auto Collision
  • A-1 Car Care
  • Accurate Auto Shop Inc
  • World Gym
  • Islandwide Transportation
  • AAA Lawn Mower Service Company
  • Spring and Wheel Alignment Inc.
  • Sno-Wax Plows and Spreaders
  • Tom’s Tires and Auto Service

I’m sure there’s others but you get the point. Many more businesses will sadly be added to this list as the project continues to force landowners and renters to divest themselves from Ronkonkoma.

A view of the properties that have already been acquired for the Ronkonkoma Hub. Source: Suffolk County GIS Portal.

While there’s little that can be done for those businesses that were already forced out, Tritec and the State owe it to the remaining business owners (whether they own the building or not) to provide relocation support services such as reimbursing realty fees, moving costs, marketing related to location changes and other costs that are being burdened to long standing community members.


Long Island Sand Mining Threatening Aquifers

This post is the first of a series I’m calling “Long Island From Above”

Looking over Long Island on Google Maps, you might notice a few large turquoise colored bodies of water. Zoom in and you’ll find man made landscapes like this 55 acre pool of water in the middle of a residential neighborhood. What’s it doing there?


While you won’t find a public beach or park along these shores, you will find established sand mining businesses that have grown over the last 40+ years to own some of the largest man made bodies of water on Long Island. But where did all that water come from?

Over the years, Ranco, Roanoke and Coram Materials mined their sandy parcels, all located within the porous pine barrens compatible growth area, to the point where they were digging below the water table. This created what’s known as a Sandpit Lake, made up of what should’ve been fresh drinking water. If you’ve ever dug a hole at the beach and hit water, you’ve created a miniature version of this enormous pit.

Take a look at how their mining operations have expanded over the years (images from the Suffolk County GIS portal)

Ranco: 55 Acre Pool

Roanoke: 117 Acre Pool (Notice the bus company headquartered right in the middle of the sand pit)

Coram Materials: 54 Acre Pool (Notice the subdivided lots they own)

While it’s certainly unique, you have to wonder how much impact these sand mining operations have on our drinking water in one of the most porous soil districts of Long Island.


The Gramercy Park Urine Problem

Having gone to college at Baruch, I often found myself taking walks around Gramercy Park between classes. While it’s a nice view and some good exercise, I’ve always had to dodge the seemingly everlasting dog pee spots found on the sidewalk outside the park. Twice now, (Link, Link) residents have posted anonymous pamphlets around the park claiming they know who is leaving dog poop around their lovely park yet they’ve never mentioned the pee problem. So, I decided to walk around the perimeter of the park (since I obviously couldn’t walk inside it) to see for my self how many distinctively identifiable dog pee spots were on the sidewalk. Here are my findings:

I don’t know if you counted, but that was about sixty (60!) pee spots! While everyone knows NYC at large is disgusting, this is a very “well to do” neighborhood that could easily afford to hire someone to wash off the sidewalks every day, put dog poop bag dispensers around the park or, better yet, allow some of the rich neighborhood dogs and their walkers inside the park to pee in a designated dog park – the park would get infinitely more used and perhaps people could meet fellow neighbors there. Of course, that’ll never happen.

What will happen is a constant flow (fitting word) of dogs excreting around the park. Most dog poop is cleaned. Pee is the real issue here and one that the entire city faces. For Gramercy Park, since the slate sidewalk seems to hold liquid more than other kinds of pavement, perhaps residents with dogs should start bringing a bottle of water to dump after their dogs pee to wash it away. As summer approaches, I kind of wish that all NYC dog owners start practicing this habit too.

Corkor Belt Durability Issues

In a quest to stop using leather products, I came across the company Corkor. They sell really good looking cork belts, wallets and bags. I quickly ordered two belts and a wallet (Which, while not the topic of this post, is holding up really well over the last two months.)

While good looking, the problem with their belts is that they wear/crack almost instantly around the holes. I had only worn the black belt for a few days by the time I took the above pictures and contacted the company.

They replied that it was only “…The normal wear of the cork fabric. The interlining material will not let it rip or damage any further.” They replied as if it were intended to crack like this despite what it says on their own website “It won’t crack or crumble, in fact, the quality and suppleness of cork fabric products can be compared to that of leather goods.”

Eventually, though I was scared of damaging the brown belt , I decided to wear it for the first time yesterday. Take a look at the photos from one day of use. I’m pretty frustrated to say the least…

Here’s a couple pictures of the black (more often worn) belt that’s just two month’s old:

And in case anyone’s interested in the wallet, here’s a couple pictures of that:

Honestly, I’m just going to keep wearing these belts until they break but I certainly can’t wear them anywhere nice. Hopefully the company makes better belts in the future because I do like their style and their prices were cheaper than other cork belt companies that I came across.