It’s not a stretch to say that the South Ferry story — the first new station in 20 years delayed by a one-inch miscalculation — is indicative of the larger problems plaguing the MTA. After all, like every other recent capital project, the South Ferry station is tens of millions of dollars over budget and now 14 months late. But there’s something about the way the MTA handled this gap problem that speaks volumes about its internal organization.
When last we saw this story, Newsday had reported that a gap between the platform and train doors ranging from 0.04 inches to one inch in violation of safety standards had to be closed. Thus, the opening of the new South Ferry Terminal would be delayed by a few weeks. As Wednesday progressed, more news emerged.
Surprisingly — or not, really — the Daily News reported that it will cost $200,000 to replace and enlarge the two pieces of plastic that will close the gap. That’s about 1200 feet of plastic and labor for $200,000. No wonder the MTA is running a deficit. (For what it’s worth, the News also notes that water is already seeping into the sparkly new station. The MTA will attempt to use more grouting to stem that leak. At least the new station will fit in with the rest of the subway system’s popular Water Damage motif.)
The good story emerged from a William Neuman City Room post alleging a credibility gap at the MTA. This gap is far wider than an inch. Neuman writes:
Now members of the authority’s board are unhappy that they were not told about the problem. “I feel we’ve got to be told exactly what’s happening,” said Andrew Albert, a board member. “Mistakes do happen,” he added, “but we have to know.”
The flap began on Monday when the authority’s capital construction czar, Michael Horodniceanu, told a board committee that the station opening was being delayed because it was taking longer to test the station’s mechanical systems, such as the fire suppression system, than had been anticipated.
He made no mention of the gap problem, even as he was being questioned by board members about the delay…
On Wednesday, after a meeting of the full authority board, Mr. Horodniceanu told reporters that he had first become aware that the gap might be too wide at least a week ago. He said that measurements were taken last weekend and that he reviewed the data Monday afternoon.
Horodniceanu released a statement to the media and the Board when questioned about his unwillingness to offer up the gap problem on Monday. “Until I had clear indication that there is nothing that we can do,” he said, “and that did not happen until Monday, when I got a plot of the survey, it was not a topic that I thought ought to be brought up unless I had an answer and a solution. If I bring just problems without solutions that’s an issue. And that’s not how we do business.”
That’s the whole problem, isn’t it? At last night’s largely unremarkable but heavily attended Brooklyn-based fare hikes and service cuts hearings, the few speakers I sat through before leaving at 7:30 all noted the same thing. The MTA doesn’t do business properly. Just add this to the long list of internal problems plaguing an agency that needs public support more than it needs more bad P.R. right now.