Archive for Asides
Second Ave. Sagas hasn’t changed its look much over the last few years. I think it’s been since late 2008, and in Internet years, that’s an eternity. So I’m thinking about redesigning the site in the coming months, and I wanted to open this thread up to you, my readers. What would you like to see on a redesigned site? I’m not even going to give suggestions because I’m curious to hear your unfiltered comments. Have it below or feel free to contact me privately. I’m looking forward to the feedback.
As we mark the six-month anniversary of the day Superstorm Sandy swept through the region, South Ferry garners the bulk of the media attention for a variety of reasons. It was the MTA’s newest station, and it suffered dramatic damage, all of which occurred underground and in Lower Manhattan. But it wasn’t the only part of the subway system that suffered.
In Queens, all those miles and neighborhoods away from South Ferry, the subway system that connects the Rockaways to the rest of the city suffered as well. The Broad Channel crossing was wiped out completely, and the infrastructure on the peninsula was heavily damaged. In late March, the MTA said it was targeting a June date for A train service to be restored, and that date holds true today.
I checked in with MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz this morning, and he tells me that the agency is still on track to restore Broad Channel service by the end of June. Simply running trains over the channel doesn’t mean work will stop, and crews will contain to combat the corrosive effect of saltwater for the foreseeable future. Yet, restoring subway service will be a big lift for this storm-ravaged area struggling to stay afloat after Sandy.
As Tom Prendergast transitions from his role atop New York City Transit to his new job as MTA CEO/Chairman, he has named Carmen Bianco as the Acting President of the nation’s largest mass transit system. Bianco, the current Senior Vice President of Subways at Transit, has 30 years of transit experience under his belt and will lead the agency as Prendergast engages in a nationwide hunt for a permanent president.
“I have tapped Carmen for this assignment in recognition of his leadership skills, his knowledge of our system and his proven ability to take the lead during an extremely challenging period,” Prendergast said in a statement. “Aside from NYC Transit’s regular operations, Carmen will also be guiding us through a major rebuilding period to bring the system back from Sandy’s damage.”
Bianco will continue to usher the subway system through its post-Sandy recovery efforts. Even as service to the Rockaways is set to resume early this summer, the system faces challenging maintenance problems as saltwater erosion takes over. “We have a lot of work to do, but we will not lose sight of our primary goal: maintaining and operating a system that provides safe and reliable service to those who depend on NYC Transit’s buses and subways,” Bianco said in a statement. “I have the greatest team in the world supporting me, and their contributions will be critical to achieving that goal every day.”
After a delay of few
centuries months, the MTA will reopen the Smith/9th Sts. F/G subway stop next Friday, April 26 at 10:30 a.m., agency spokesman Kevin Ortiz just announced via Twitter. The station closed in June of 2011 and was supposed to reopen mid-2012. But delays due to both the normal course of work and Superstorm Sandy pushed the opening back into 2013. Now, Red Hook and Carroll Gardens residents and business will get their subway station back.
I’ll have more details on the reopening as they become available, but it seems likely that the work isn’t completed even as the station is ready for revenue service. Two weeks ago, I snapped a photo behind the construction fence of the entrance, and much work remained. Still, the MTA vowed to reopen the station before May Day, and they’ll finally meet a Culver Viaduct project deadline, albeit one pushed back countless times.
The MTA’s controversial payroll tax went back to court this week as an Appellate Division court in Brooklyn heard oral arguments from attorneys on both sides of the issue. The tax, which delivers $1.8 billion in badly needed revenue to the MTA’s coffers, was overturned by a Nassau County judge last summer in a deeply flawed ruling. The state has continued to collect the tax as the appeal has wound its way through the state court system, and now we’re awaiting a ruling once again on its constitutionality.
Judy Rife of the Times Herald-Record filed a brief report from the court earlier this week. Although the initial ruling focused on home rule measures, lawyers wisely have opted not to pursue this line of reasoning as state precedence does not support the decision. Rather, as Rife writes, “Steven Cohn and Justin Adin, lawyers for the municipalities, now argue that the state is required to impose a tax throughout New York when it benefits an agency of statewide concern such as the MTA.”
This argument is a bold but dangerous one for these lawyers to make. Attorneys for the state and MTA have said that the state “has the authority to enact the tax and to levy it selectively,” but if the court rules differently, the entire MTA funding scheme could collapse. Already, various taxes imposed only in New York City and the surrounding counties bolster the MTA’s bottom line, and denying the state the authority to levy these taxes could send the transit agency’s fragile budget into a tailspin. The odds of such a ruling though are remote, but I’ll feel better about it once the Appellate Division issues its ruling. The payroll tax is far from perfect, but without action from Albany, the alternatives are dire.
A 94-minute, non-stop ride to the East End is in the offering for the looming summer beach season as the LIRR has announced plans to run its Cannonball train non-stop from Penn Station every Friday from May 24 through Labor Day. The one-seat ride will skip Jamaica and head straight to Westhampton with subsequent stops at Southampton East Hampton, Bridgehampton and Montauk. The Friday train will depart Penn Station at 4:07 p.m. with westbound service — including a stop at Jamaica — departing Montauk at 6:37 p.m. on Sunday nights.
“There’s no better way to get from Manhattan to the Hamptons,” LIRR President Helena E. Williams said in a statement. “Our customers have long asked for a one-seat ride from Penn Station to the Hamptons and we are listening to them. This move eliminates the need to change trains with baggage at Jamaica.”
With a 34 percent increase in summer ridership last year, the LIRR is hoping to boost service along the Montauk Branch. The speedy ride east will cost passengers $27, and passengers have the option to reserve a seat for an additional fee. Previously, such Cannonball service had originated at the Hunterspoint Avenue Terminal in Long Island City with many riders picking up the train at Jamaica, and the new service does away with the transfer. For Hamptons-bound travelers, the Cannonball train has been a mainstay since the 1890s, and it remains both the longest route and the only one with a name operated by the MTA.
In what is possibly the weirdest MTA-related story in years, DNA Info reports today that the 7 line extension is safe from electric eels. Now, an astute reader may be wondering how this came about a year before the project is due to wrap and why anyone would be focusing on electric eels in the first place. Well, the story is quite strange.
As Jill Colvin reports, MTA Board Member Charlie Moerdler raised the issue at a recent board member when he claimed to remember eels coming ashore and wreaking havoc on metal pipes during construction of the Javits Center. Moerdler helped the Javits Center secure an exemption to New York’s plumbing rules, and the convention center received permission to use plastic piping. “That’s the issue. Does it apply to the 7 line and does it apply to the area where the Hudson Yards is?” he asked.
Colvin dug up the March 1980 Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Javits Center and could find no mention of electric eels raising any alarms. She also spoke with the eel project coordinator at the Hudson River Eel Project who said that electric eels do not live in New York Harbor or the Hudson River. “I don’t think you have to worry about electric eel damage,” Chris Bowser said. The MTA, meanwhile, has no plans to to eel-proof the West Side subway extension, and I for one am glad that’s settled.
Albany: Home to a bunch of crooks, stool pigeons and politicians who are adept at cutting off their noses to spite their face. We know that Albany’s relationship with sensible transit planning isn’t a particularly strong one, but Diane Savino, a State Senator from Staten Island takes the cake this week. In response to the EDC endorsement of the 7 line to Secaucus, Savino has vowed a war. She will do all she can to block any state funding for such a subway extension until and unless Staten Island gets a subway connection to the rest of the city first.
“Are they out of their minds?” Savino said to the Staten Island Advance. “We are part of New York City, we are a borough of over half a million people, it is past time we have similar transportation alternatives that are provided to the other boroughs. The NYCEDC would be better served by following their mandate, serving the people of the City of New York.”
Savino’s attitude is beyond provincial and focuses far too much on state borders instead of the proper measures of use, efficiency and economic development. Would a subway from Staten Island to Manhattan (or even to the R train along 4th Ave.) be feasible, cheaper and, most importantly, as heavily utilized as an extension into Secaucus? Without much further study, we don’t know, but the Hoboken/Secaucus area has a much higher population density than Staten Island. Were Savino to make good on her threat, it could seriously impact a project that could be of great benefit to all of New York City.
Meanwhile, if Savino is serious about a subway to Staten Island, she could start by being a better transit advocate. Over the years, she has voted to reduce MTA subsidies without reading the bill at hand, she has urged for a repeal of the payroll mobility tax, and she has was disproportionately outraged over a request for information the MTA issued two years ago.
Remember when, five months ago, a hurricane flooded the New York City subway system, thus washing out tunnels and a few stations? It certainly didn’t take too long for the MTA to get service up and running and implement solutions — from the temporary to the permanent — to restore service. The same has not happened at 181st St. in Washington Heights, and a neighborhood group is raising a stink about it.
In 2009, when a ceiling collapse at the deep station along the 1 train led to service problems and safety concerns, the MTA vowed quick, but it’s been nearly four years with only temporary construction in place. Now, WE ACT is speaking out. “When Sandy hit, they got stuff moving quickly at the South Ferry,” the group’s spokesman Jacob Carlson said. “It’s been four years since the roof collapsed and not a hammer has been lifted.”
Money doesn’t seem to be the culprit here. The MTA had vowed to start work a year ago, but each time the due date came around, the project was delayed. Last week, though, Citnalta won a $42 million contract for the work, but no start date has been unveiled. As various maintenance projects move forward, I’m left with the same concern: When the MTA has a fire under its belly lit by politicians and Board members, action happens quickly. When projects are left to languish, they languish with a vengeance. For riders at 181st St., they continue to eye the ceiling warily as repairs slowly inch down the pike.
As the New York economy has continued to improve, a bit of good news concerning transit funding emerged from Albany yesterday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced “major investments in public transit” as part of his 2013-2014 budget. For the MTA, this means an additional increase of approximately $40 million more than it requested for operations support and a reauthorization of capital financing for both the 2005-2009 and 2010-2014 campaigns.
So how to spend it then? Opinions were diverse. “They should increase bus and subway service where they can,” \Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said. “That should be their top priority.” MTA Board members agreed. “We ought to be looking for ways to give back,” Allen Cappelli said. “We did the fare and toll increases, and people have the right to expect we’d look to expand service.”
TWU officials had other ideas. John Samuelsen, president of the union, said the money should go toward a new contract for the MTA’s workers — an idea long at odds with the MTA’s triple-zero approach. And therein lies the rub. It’s clear to me that the MTA should restore services lost to the 2010 cuts or expand its current offerings, but someone else always wants the money. For now, though, we’ll have to wait as the MTA won’t unveil an updated budget until the summer.