Mayor Bloomberg — much to the chagrin of Joe Lhota — likes to opine on transit issues when, to put it delicately, the topic isn’t quite his forte. During the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the mayor seemed to pull timelines for the restoration of transit services out of thin air. Now, hizzoner has decided to tackle the problem of post-Sandy reconstruction costs.
As Dana Rubinstein reported today at Capital New York, the mayor seems to think we don’t need to better prepare the subway system for a flood. Let’s just take the money and run instead. In a radio interview, Bloomberg offered up this gem:
“I think a legitimate question is, if this happens only once 110 years, and if you get it back as quickly as they did, is that a good use of your money? You’d probably be better off taking those dollars, I think, and expanding the subway out to where people have now lived compared to when they did 100 years ago when the subways were built. Or have more trains, and better signaling so you can have more trains on the same track. There are a lot of things you could do with money to make the subway system better.”
There’s no doubt that, as Bloomberg says, there are a lot of things New York could do with that money. A $5 billion infusion of capital funds would cover a subway station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. on the 7 line extension and the next phase of the Second Ave. Subway. And I know and you know just how badly the subway could use that funding.
Yet, Bloomberg seems to be resisting progress here. In two consecutive years, we’ve gotten two storm swith the potential to be the storm that happens once every 110 years. Last year, the city dodged a bullet when the storm essentially passed over us; this year, Sandy’s full force hit us head on. New York’s politicians and the MTA can’t ignore changing weather patterns and the threat rising tides pose to the city’s transportation infrastructure. With an infusion of cash and an opportunity to prevent future catastrophic flooding, the time to act is now.
It’s tempting to sit back, as the mayor has done, and note how quickly things returned to almost-normal, but that’s not the right answer. Storm surges and flooding pose major threats to the subway, and even as New York City needs more of a Second Ave. Subway and transit expansion projects, it needs to protect the current system as well.