• Look out, old Macky’s gone · When then-Nassau County Executive Thomas Gulotta appointed David Mack to the MTA Board in 1993, the appointment seemed to be a solid one. Mack had an accomplished résumé of police experience under his belt that included an assistant commissionership with the Nassau County Police Department and a similar role with the Long Beach Police as well. While his term expired in June, Mack had retained his position of co-vice chair of the MTA throughout the unsettled summer. He

    Recently, though, Mack has come under attack as New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo investigated the State Police. While Mack refused to cooperate with the investigation, Cuomo determined that state officials had, according to The Times, “inappropriately granted Mr. Mack a dress uniform and the title of deputy superintendent, even though he had no law enforcement experience and appeared to perform few duties for the State Police.” Cuomo determined that the appointment to the MTA Board was one of patronage rather than of merit. On Friday, Mack announced that he would resign from the MTA and Port Authority Boards.

    As Steven Higashide writes today at Mobilizing the Region, this resignation is a clear victory for transit advocates. Mack has in the past defended poor MTA practices of giving away far too many free transit passes and noted that complaints from the public were routinely ignored. Tom Suozzi will have a chance to appoint a new MTA Board member, and he would be wise to heed Higashide’s call to find a “good ambassador for the system.” · (0)


When I first came up with the idea to begin this blog in November of 2006, I brainstormed a name that I could spell with subway bullets. I wanted to relate the name of the blog to the subway and express that through an easily recognizable image. The current name and above banner were the end result of my brainstorming.

At the time, I didn’t realize that the MTA had trademarked the subway bullets and that I had run afoul of their trademark. Nearly 20 months after starting this site, I received a letter — in the form of a comment on a post that was at the time three weeks old — from the MTA’s Senior Associate Coounsel (sic), as he spelled it. In the initial letter, Lester Freundlich told me that I couldn’t use the image of the MetroCard in a blog post reporting on a MetroCard and that I couldn’t use the subway map. He didn’t even complain about my using the subway bullets; that issue came up later on.

Eventually, I worked out the issue with the MTA’s Marketing and Advertising department. I had to change the image, as you can see from the current one evocative of the Massimo Vignelli-designed subway signs, and I had to add a disclaimer to the site. As the use of the MetroCard image was a fair use, I was in the clear. All’s well that ended well for me.

I’m not the only person though that Lester Freundlich and the MTA legal department has contacted over the last few months. Two stories — one involving a Metro-North blogger and his iPhone application and one involving someone in San Francisco — raise some serious questions about how the MTA enforces its intellectual property rights and how prepared the MTA is for a digital world.

StationStops and an iPhone Application

Chris Schoenfeld is a Metro-North commuter and a web programmer. (Disclaimer: He’s also one of my advertisers.) In 2006, he started the Metro-North blog Station Stops, and in 2007, he wrote an application with the Metro-North schedule data. The MTA hasn’t yet figured out the digital world, and Schoenfeld’s application filled an obvious niche.

Over the years, Schoenfeld had, as I did, ran afoul of some of the MTA’s intellectual property rights. He had employed some copyrighted images of MTA property. At each turn, he removed them as requested.

In August, the MTA stepped up its campaign against Schoenfeld. In its original dealings with Schoenfeld, the MTA claimed that Station Stops was presenting itself as an official MTA site. That claim is, quite frankly, laughable. Schoenfeld’s site doesn’t resemble an MTA site, and it’s clearly a journalistic blog. A few days later, they seemingly dropped this complain but ordered him to cease selling the iPhone application. This charge rested on the claim that the MTA owns the copyright to the schedule data and that Schoenfeld’s use of the data violates that copyright.

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Categories : MTA Technology
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The weekend service advisories can be found in the bottom half of this post. To skip right to them, click here.

As the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks arrived on a gray and rainy Friday, our city’s attention again turned to security. The Times looked at ways in which we’ve put the attacks behind us a city, but not everyone felt confident that the city is safer than it was eight years ago. ABC News looked at subway security and came away alarmed.

Despite hundreds of millions of dollars allocated to create a state-of-the-art surveillance system for New York City’s subway system, the monitoring technology is still not in place and experts say the city’s underground transportation tunnels remain a leading and unnecessarily vulnerable target to terrorism eight years after the 9/11 attacks devastated the country.

“Terrorists, if they did surveillance, would know that security hasn’t really improved since 9/11,” said former national security officer Richard Clarke, now an ABC News consultant…

Four years ago, the MTA awarded a more than $200 million contract t Lockheed Martin to create a surveillance system to monitor NYC’s subway systems. The technology was supposed to be in operation last year, but it remains unimplemented as Lockheed Martin and the MTA are currently suing each other over the contract and all work has stopped.

The MTA has “already paid $250 to $300 million to Lockheed and the only thing they have to show for it is litigation, being in court,” said NYC Transportation Committee Chairman John Liu.

While Washington, Atlanta and other major cities have installed similar surveillance systems, New York police have had to add extra officers to patrol its subways as it awaits its own high tech system – a system that MTA Executive Director Katherine Lapp said would alert authorities so that “hopefully we can respond and hopefully prevent an attack from happening.”

This is, of course, not really breaking news to those of us who have followed the story. What is shocking though is the federal government’s response to it. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano basically had no idea that the MTA had suffered through costly delays in securing the system or was engaged in a lawsuit with Lockheed Martin. “I ride the subway, the mayor rides the subway, the vice mayor rides the subway,” she said to ABC. “So the overall safety of the subways is safe. Now are we there yet on technology? That I can’t comment to.”

Maybe cameras aren’t the way to secure the subway. Maybe increased police presence is all we need to deter any potential attack. But even now, eight years later, the MTA’s security measures remain a work in progress.

* * *
Here are your weekend service advisories. These come to me right from the MTA and are subject to change with no notice. Check signs in your local station and listen to on-board announcements.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, September 11 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, there are no 1 trains operating between 34th Street and South Ferry due to a track chip-out at Chambers Street station. 2 and 3 trains provide alternate service between 34th Street and Chambers Street. Free shuttle buses replace 1 trains between Chambers Street and South Ferry. Note: Downtown 23 trains skip Christopher, Houston, Canal, and Franklin Streets.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, downtown 1 trains skip 96th Street due to station rehabilitation.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, downtown 2 trains skip 96th Street, then run local from 86th to 14th Streets. Uptown 2 trains run local from Chambers Street to 96th Street. These changes are due to a track chip-out at Chambers Street and station rehabilitation at 96th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, downtown 3 trains skip 96th Street, then run local from 86th Street to 14th Street due to a track chip-out at Chambers Street and station rehabilitation at 96th Street. Note: Overnight downtown 3 trains stop at 86th and 79th Streets, then run express from 72nd to 42nd Streets.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13, uptown 3 trains run local from Chambers Street to 96th Street due to a track chip-out at Chambers Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, Manhattan-bound 6 trains run express from Hunts Point Avenue to 3rd Avenue-138th Street due to a concrete pour at East 143rd Street-St. Mary’s Street.

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, September 12, Bronx-bound 6 trains run express from Hunts Point Avenue to Parkchester due to rail replacement at St. Lawrence Avenue.

At all times until January 18, 2010, Far Rockaway-bound A trains skip Beach 67th, Beach 44th, and Beach 25th Streets due to station rehabilitations. – This is a permanent service change until mid-January.

From 5 a.m. Saturday, September 12 to 10 p.m. Sunday, September 13, Coney Island-bound D trains run on the N line from 36th Street to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue due to 38th Street Yard work.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, D trains run local in both directions between 34th Street and West 4th Street due to a track chip-out in the 53rd Street tunnel.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, E trains are rerouted on the F line in Manhattan and Queens due to a track chip-out in the 53rd Street tunnel:

  • There are no E trains between 34th Street-Penn Station and World Trade Center. Customers should take the A instead.
  • Manhattan-bound E trains run on the F from Roosevelt Avenue to 34th Street-6th Avenue.
  • Queens-bound E trains run on the F from 34th Street-Herald Square to 47th-50th Sts. Trains resume normal E service from 5th Avenue-53rd Street to Jamaica Center.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, Manhattan-bound E platforms at Queens Plaza, 23rd Street/Ely Avenue, Lexington Avenue-53rd Street and 5th Avenue stations are closed due to a track chip-out in the 53rd Street tunnel. Customers may take the R or G instead. Note: Free shuttle buses connect the Court Square G/23rd Street-Ely Avenue, Queens Plaza, and 21st Street-Queensbridge F stations.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, Queens-bound E trains run express from Roosevelt Avenue to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to cable work north of Roosevelt Avenue.

From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, September 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, Manhattan-bound E trains run local on the F line from Roosevelt Avenue to 21st Street-Queensbridge due to track maintenance.

From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, September 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, Jamaica-bound E trains run local from Queens Plaza to Roosevelt Avenue due to track maintenance.

From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, September 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, F trains run local between Roosevelt Avenue and 21st Street-Queensbridge due to track maintenance.

From 12:01 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13, and from 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, Queens-bound G trains run express from Roosevelt Avenue to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to cable work north of Roosevelt Avenue.

From 8:30 p.m. to midnight Friday, September 11, and from 6:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13, there are no G trains between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square due to the track chip-out in the 53rd Street tunnel. Brooklyn-bound customers may take the R to Queens Plaza, transfer to a shuttle bus connecting to Court Square. Queens-bound customers may take the E instead. Note: Queens-bound E and R trains run express from Roosevelt Avenue to Forest Hills-71st Avenue.

From 4:30 a.m. Saturday, September 12 to 10 p.m. Sunday, September 13, there are no J trains between Broadway Junction and Myrtle Avenue due to switch renewal north of Broadway Junction. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service.

From 4:30 a.m. Saturday, September 12 to 10 p.m. Sunday, September 13, there are no M trains running due to switch renewal north of Broadway Junction. Rerouted J trains replace the M between Myrtle and Metropolitan Avenues.

From 12:01 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13 and from 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, Manhattan-bound N trains skip Lawrence Street due to station rehabilitation and construction of the underground connector at Lawrence Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, Brooklyn-bound N trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge from Canal Street to DeKalb Avenue due to station rehabilitation and construction of the underground connector at Lawrence Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, N trains run local between DeKalb Avenue and 59th Street-4th Avenue due to station rehabilitation and construction of the underground connector at Lawrence Street.

At all times until December 2009, the Coney Island-bound side of the Avenue U and Neck Road stations are closed for rehabilitation. Customers should use Kings Highway B/Q, Sheepshead Bay B/Q, or Avenue U F stations as alternatives.

From 9:30 a.m. Friday, September 11 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, free shuttle buses replace Q trains between Prospect Park and Kings Highway due to Brighton line station rehabs.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13, Brooklyn-bound R trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge from Canal Street to DeKalb Avenue due to station rehabilitation and construction of the underground connector at Lawrence Street.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13, Manhattan-bound R trains skip Lawrence Street due to station rehabilitation and construction of the underground connector at Lawrence Street.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13, Queens-bound R trains run express from Roosevelt Avenue to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to cable work north of Roosevelt Avenue.

From 10:30 p.m. Friday, September 11 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 14, there are no Rockaway Park Shuttle S trains between Broad Channel and Rockaway Park due to station rehabilitations at Beach 105th Street and Beach 90th Street. A trains and free shuttle buses provide alternate service.

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  • Walder, starting in October, promises an MTA overhaul · During his confirmation yesterday, Jay Walder, the incoming head of the MTA, spoke about his plans for the beleaguered transit agency. While Walder spent some time talking to the Senate about the ways in which he hopes to make the transit system “more inviting,” his most telling comments concerned upcoming personnel changes. “It’s my intention to form a management team, bring new people into the MTA with a broad range of experience and success in different parts of the world,” Walder said. “It’s a fair expectation to say the MTA will be moving forward with a new team.”

    For the next few weeks, the MTA will continue with its current interim structure minus outgoing Chair Dale Hemmerdinger. Walder said he will begin his job in early October after, in the words of Pete Donohue, “settling his affairs in England.” For now, Helena Williams will continue as the interim CEO, and Andrew Saul, the current vice chairman, will take over as interim chair during next Wednesday’s MTA Board meeting. · (0)

After a two-month circus that saw a bunch of uninformed State Senators sound off on transit issues, the MTA finally has a new permanent chairman and CEO. In a 47-13 vote that saw a unified Democratic front joined by a splintered state GOP faction, the Senate voted to approve Jay Walder as the new head of the MTA.

“I am confident that Jay will shepherd the MTA into a new era – one that benefits all riders, whether in the Hudson Valley, the five boroughs or on Long Island,” Gov. David Paterson said this evening. “I applaud this confirmation and look forward to working with Jay as we strive to make the MTA more efficient, transparent and accountable.”

Of course, as we’re talking about the State Senate, Thursday evening’s vote was hardly a smooth affair, and numerous Senators showed their utter ignorance and lack of perspective in voting down Walder’s nomination. With reports from all major outlets, let’s see what everyone was saying.

Per Elizabeth Benjamin, one Binghamton-based GOP Senator voted against Walder because his area has no MTA. “As an upstater, I have roads and bridges,” Tom Libous said in an effort to explain his “no vote. “I don’t have an MTA where I live.” Libous voted as he did to “send a message” to the rest of the state government. “We have no plan for roads and bridges. We need to have a comprehensive capital plan.” That is petty state politics at its finest.

John Flanagan, another Republican from Long Island, voted no because Walder had previously MTA experience. “He’s not a newbie to the situation here,” Flanagan said. “He’s got a track record – no pun intended – having worked for this authority.” For that and for Walder’s unwillingness to take a strong stand during this confirmation sideshow, Flanagan declined to approve a qualified candidate.

Stephen Saland, a Hudson Valley Republican, also voted no for no good reason. According to The Times’ coverage of the confirmation vote, Saland neglected to lend his support to Walder because his Senate colleagues refused to host one of their confirmation hearings in his district. Somehow, Saland is upholding his public duty with this vote.

Finally, one man who voted yes — Carl Kruger — continued to sound ignorant of reality. “There is still much work to be done to repair the frayed relationship between the MTA and its frustrated and beleaguered ridership,” the Senate Finance Committee Chair said in a statement. “But Mr. Walder answered our questions, allayed our concerns and appears committed to heralding the new era of transparency and accountability at the MTA that we fought so hard to achieve during the past year.”

I again question Carl Kruger’s ability to pay attention to reality. For years, the MTA has put numerous budget documents on its website. For years, the MTA has been more forthcoming than any other public authority with its fiscal information. It hosts multiple public forums and has opened its books for all to see. This “new era” began before Elliot Sander arrived; it’s not beginning today. I wouldn’t expect Carl Kruger — a politician who feels that bus lane enforcement will lead to increased congestion — to understand that.

In the end, this tomfoolery doesn’t really lead anywhere. The Senate is mocked, and the MTA has its head. On paper, Walder is eminently qualified, but during the confirmation hearings, he ducked answering questions on a few hot-button issues. He has his work cut out for him, and as the Senate will be keeping a close eye on him, it won’t be an easy task.

Categories : MTA Politics
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A relic of a naming convention lost to time. (Photo by flickr user wallyg)

Today, we celebrate a birthday. The venerable A train, made famous by Billy Strayhorn in 1939, is 77 years old for it was at midnight on September 10, 1932 that the A and its local sister the AA started operating along the 8th Ave. IND lines.

The Independent Subway line has, unsurprisingly, a long and tortured history. It took 12 years from the point of conception to open just the 8th Ave. line and parts of the original IND system did not open until 1988, 56 years after the first A train rolled up the tracks. Meanwhile, the Second System, which I explored in depth last year, has never materialized, and we’re still waiting for the Second Ave. Subway to arrive.

While you can read a complete history of the IND at NYCSubway.org, I want to put aside historical skepticism and look instead at the reports of the new subway’s opening. The Times covered the event in great detail, and the article is a gem of 1930s New York City reporting.

The opening itself was not marked by any ceremony. The line took seven years to build, and it cost $191.2 million. By mid-1932, the city was looking for someone else to operate the trains, but amidst a Great Depression, no one stepped forward. Paul Crowell reported on the first passengers to reach the platform:

There was no official “first train,” no official opening ceremony, no laudatory speech-making program. The chains which have blocked access to the turnstiles were removed just before midnight last night, and those who dropped their nickels in the turnstile slots were free to board a train at any station along the line. The full operating schedule has been in effect since Wednesday afternoon, and at every station on the line, uptown or downtown, a local or express was available within a few minutes after the prospective rider reached the station platform.

At Times Square, New Yorkers gathered en masse to await the opening of this new subway line with its brand new R1 rolling stock, wide platforms and mezzanine express stops. Crowell writes of the maddening crowds all waiting to drop their nickels into the turnstiles:

The largest crowd to board trains immediately after the official opening was at the Forty-second Street station. At that point Mr. Delaney gave the signal to throw the turnstiles open to the public. The first person to drop his coin into the slot was Billy Reilly, 7 years old, of 406 West Forty-sixth Street, who had been waiting several hours for his first ride on the new line. He got a preferred place on line when, Mr. Delaney learned that he was born March 14, 1925, the day ground was first broken for the new subway.

At this station, as well as at Columbus Circle and Thirty-fourth Street, a carnival spirit was manifested by those who waited to board the first trains. They rushed through the turnstiles, cheering and shouting and rushed down the stairways to the platforms. The first train to pull in was a southbound express. It was filled to capacity and carried the first load of straphangers to ride on the new line. Fifteen minutes after this train pulled out there was still a line in front of the main change booth at the Forty-second Street entrance of the station.

Of course, not everything was smooth sailing for the A train. One passenger alleged that the turnstile had eaten his nickel, called the new line a “rotten subway” and ran off to catch his train. Other rowdy teenagers stuck gum into the turnstile slots as lines grew long. That’s the 1930s equivalent of “Swipe Again at This Turnstile.”

Meanwhile, New Yorkers celebrated the night away, and many came out just for the spectacle of it. According to Crowell’s reporting, 2808 passed through the Times Square turnstiles between midnight and 1 a.m. on a Saturday, and at 2 a.m., the trains were still packed. “Of this number not all were riders, however, for many were satisfied to pay their nickel, make a complete inspection of the new station and return to the street,” Cowell wrote.

As the MTA and city and state officials have proclaimed the Second Ave. Subway an eventual boon for the Upper East Side, so too did New York officials proclaim the IND for the West Side. “The opening of the Eighth Avenue subway, will, in my opinion, do more constructively to bring about the rejuvenation of the west side than any other single known factor,” one-time Governor and then-head of the West Association of Commerce Alfred E. Smith said.

The technical details of the new subway, meanwhile, were impressive. The city, in fact, learned from the previous mistakes of the Interborough Rapid Transit planners. While the IRT served as the city’s first subway, many of its stations are far too close together, and some key stops are built on curved sections of the tracks. Trains can’t maintain or achieve top speeds as they navigate the Union Square curve or run from Bowling Green to Wall St. to Fulton St. Crowell noted the changes:

Subway stations have been located with respect to the density of population in connection with running distances between stops. The stations are at least 600 feet long, with provisions for extension to 660 feet if necessary. They will accommodate ten-car trains with ease. They are lighted under a new system designed to eliminate shadows. All platforms are straight-edged, locations on curves having been avoided.

The cars are designed in accordance with the view of a committee of experts which gave its services without charge. Tests conducted by the board’s engineers indicate that the trains can be loaded and unloaded in 33.3 percent faster time than those on the B.M.T. and Interborough. Each car will seat 60 persons and provide standing room for 220.

And thus a subway line was born. Today, we take the IND for granted and wait for the Second Ave. Subway. Will we witness “gay midnight crowds” when the 33-block, four-stop extension of the Q train opens up in 2017 or 2018? Will we witness a spectacle and a ceremony or will just shrug its collective shoulders? If history is our guide, it will be a momentous night indeed.

Categories : Subway History
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As the MTA attempts to avoid an arbitration ruling that guaranteed TWU workers 11 percent raises over the next three years, the agency has plead poverty in its court filings. In its motion to overturn the arbitration decision, filed Tuesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, the transportation authority said it does not have the money to pay its workers and adequately operate its trains at the same time.

For its legal claim, the MTA is alleging that the arbitration panel made egregious fiscal mistakes in evaluating the MTA’s ability to pay the raise. The agency has also threatened to scale back service and raise fares to maker labor ends meet. Pete Donohue has more:

In legal papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, transit officials also say the arbitration panel that crafted the contract last month made critical blunders when evaluating the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s finances.

In one instance, the panel said the MTA has a $75 million rainy-day fund, which the authority says has been drained. “The MTA simply does not have the money to pay for the ramped-up, out-of-scale unbudgeted costs…without foisting upon the public some very unpleasant choices regarding fares, service levels…and maintenance of the system,” the MTA argues.

While I haven’t yet secured the filings, The Post has more:

The suit said the raises would waste millions of dollars of a new payroll tax — 34 cents of every $100 of a business’ income — on “out-of-scale compensation increases for employees who, by all accounts, already are well paid.”

… [Arbitrator John] Zuccotti and [TWU President Roger] Toussaint both agreed the MTA can take money from its capital programs — the same budget that funds the Second Avenue Subway, the purchase of new buses and station rehabilitation — to pay the raises.

I certainly don’t agree that the MTA should be removing capital funds to cover labor costs. That represents a backwards investment in moving transit in New York City forward.

No matter the outcome though this appeal could turn labor relations toward an acrimonious stalemate. The case is set to be heard on Tuesday, and both the MTA and TWU have a lot at stake.

Categories : TWU
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MTA Arts for Transit, Permanent Art Program

The Sol LeWitt installation at 59th St./Columbus Circle. (Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Rob Wilson. Click to enlarge.)

Taking a walk through the Columbus Circle station right now is one of the least pleasant experiences in the subway. Undergoing a complete rehab that is behind schedule, the station is hot and dusty. Platforms are cut off; walls are exposed; staircases are closed.

Eventually, the station will be completely transformed, but for now, it is in a perpetual state of construction. On Wednesday, a glimpse of color appeared amidst the construction as the Sol LeWitt Arts for Transit installation opened on a double-wide wall on a mezzanine in between the A/B/C/D and 1 train platforms.

The piece, shown above and again at the bottom of the post, was commissioned in 2004, and LeWitt, who passed away two years ago, selected the site himself. The work is 53 feet wide by 11 feet tall and is made of 250 porcelain tiles of six varying colors. It is called “Whirls and twirls (MTA)” and is one of the more vibrantly-colored entries in the Arts for Transit program.

“LeWitt’s genius comes through in this artwork, which is a major work of precision with its curves and bands in vibrant color that completely fills the space,” MTA Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger said. “It will become a landmark and is a great tribute to one of our major artists.”

Sadly, LeWitt is no longer with us to see the piece’s grand unveiling. He died in April 2007, but the artist is enjoying much posthumous success. As his obituary says, LeWitt was known for “deceptively simple geometric sculptures and drawings and ecstatically colored and jazzy wall paintings.” An exhibit of his works, recently named one of the top art shows in the nation, is on display for 25 years at Mass MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, and LeWitt was very much looking forward to his collaboration with the MTA.

“When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art,” he said in an Arts for Transit interview a year before his death.

After LeWitt’s death, Sandra Bloodworth, director of Arts for Transit and Facilities Design, worked closely with the artist’s family to ensure that his vision would be realized. “This project,” she said, “was filled with challenges, as we prepared several samples of tile and glazes to meet with Mr. LeWitt’s approval and found a facility that could produce large tiles mandated by the design. Working with Arts for Transit, his family and colleagues helped bring the project to completion. It is a very special and unique creation because it is a permanent public installation of a wall drawing, executed in porcelain tile. Usually the wall drawings are executed in paint or pencil based on exacting instructions by the artist.”

While some may criticize Arts for Transit as a superfluous use of money in tight economic times, LeWitt’s piece brings some color and levity to our normally serious commutes. It lightens up a once-dull space and should be recognized and embraced as a leading example of underground art.

Click through for another view. Read More→

Categories : Arts for Transit
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The tortured history of the Fulton St. Hub is one we know quite well. Nearly seven years behind schedule and 100 percent over budget, this project aimed at revitalizing Lower Manhattan has become a symbol of the MTA’s construction problems. Recently, the MTA faced another economic setback as a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that the agency owes displaced real estate owners another $40 million.

While I first saw this write-up in the Post, GlobeSt.com has a more thorough story. In a ruling issued late last month, State Justice Walter Tolub told the MTA that it will have to up its valuation of three Lower Manhattan parcels seized as part of the Fulton St. Transit Center project. The MTA had priced them as individual parcels, but the judge is considering them to be an assemblage with a higher price tag. Paul Bubny has more:

“The highest, best and most profitable use of the properties would have resulted in the construction of residential rental and condominium development, with ground and second floor retail development,” Tolub wrote in his August 28 ruling. Given that, “there is simply no question” that the three northernmost parcels along lower Broadway between Fulton and John streets “would have constituted an assemblage, and that the parties would have entered into a zoning lot merger, transferring the development rights. These lots were, for all intents and purposes, under common ownership and control.”

That common ownership of the four properties on these parcels came from the Reformed Protestant Church of the City of New York, the fee owners of 192, 198 and 204-210 Broadway; and from Brookfield Properties, which entered into a joint venture with the church on ownership of 200 Broadway. Brookfield and the church had discussed an assemblage of these parcels well before the MTA’s eminent domain seizure of the properties in March 2006, Tolub wrote. All have since been demolished.

According to Tolub’s ruling, the church had also been in active negotiations with the Riese Organization, which owned 194 Broadway, for developmental rights prior to the MTA’s taking the property. Based on comparable sales that took place in early 2006, Tolub ordered the MTA to pay the Rieses $35.2 million for 194 Broadway, and to pay the church and Brookfield a total of $106.5 million for the four other properties.

In a statement to me about the ruling, the MTA expressed its plans to file an appeal. “The MTA disagrees with the court’s valuation of property required by the MTA to complete the Fulton Street Transit Center and intends to appeal the decision,” the statement said.

Despite this legal setback and the potential for a higher price tag, the Fulton St. plans are not in fiscal jeopardy. “The project’s budget and the proposed 2010-2014 capital program include reserves for contingencies, which, if necessary, would cover these increased valuation costs,” the MTA said.

Attorneys for the victorious plaintiffs said they would seek fees and other expenses from the MTA as the case heads to an appeal. I certainly hope this transit center is worth it in the end.

Categories : Fulton Street
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The Jay Walder confirmation circus hit Harlem on Tuesday. While it seems as though the State Senate will confirm Walder as the new top dog for the MTA, Walder is still speaking in platitudes while offering few glimpses into his MTA strategy.

I unfortunately could not venture uptown yesterday to attend the hearings, but both The Times and amNew York, among other outlets, sent reporters. The tone and substance of the coverage is widely divergent. Michael Grynbaum is skeptical of Walder and his non-answers while Heather Haddon found promises of innovation. We start with The Times:

Based on a public hearing in Harlem on Tuesday, Mr. Walder has already mastered at least one political sleight of hand: the nonanswer answer. Asked about the transportation authority’s much-publicized new labor agreement, Mr. Walder said he had not read the proceedings and could not comment. He said the authority “can do much more with the bus system,” but he was vague on the details, saying he hoped to see more enforcement of bus lanes.

In his testimony, he also said that he hoped to encourage “a new communications strategy with the communities we serve” and to make public information about the system more “comprehensive and comprehensible.” But he declined to be any more specific, leaving the several dozen people attending the hearing with more generic phrases often associated with management consultants, like McKinsey & Company, Mr. Walder’s current employer.

“We need to address the issues of credibility, accountability and transparency,” he said when asked about his goals. “I’m sure we can all agree on that.”

Haddon, meanwhile, highlights three areas of in which the MTA can look to upgrade its system. Walder wants to bring a contact-lass payment system online; he wants to install train-arrival boards with real-time train information; and he wants to beef up the bus operations through consistent ticketing of those who block the bus lanes and an expansion of the city’s nascent bus rapid transit system.

“We walk to the edge of the platform, we look over, we wait to see if there’s a white light. And if we see the white light and hope it’s not a reflection, then we know that the train is actually coming. This is simply not the way to operate a 21st century transit system,” Walder said of the MTA’s technological woes.

It’s hard to argue with either Grynbaum’s or Haddon’s take on the Walder confirmation hearings. On the one hand, Walder can’t really say anything inflammatory during these sessions because he risks losing the support of the State Senate. He can’t bash the labor deal or discuss much about the ongoing legal battle with the TWU — although he could do more than say that he hasn’t read the arbitration award yet. He can’t address the MTA’s real economic short comings right now either without upsetting Senators already antsy about a tax- and fee-heavy MTA bailout plan.

On the other, it always comes back to the money. Walder can talk about technological innovation and our need to catch up with our global transit competitors until he is blue in the face. Without the money, the MTA is stuck spinning its wheels and trying to maintain its State of Good Repair. Walder needs to be confirmed, and he’ll have to be realistic about the MTA’s short- and long-term future. He may have the support of transit advocates, but Walder has yet to show me that he deserves to replace Elliot Sander, the man the Senate and Governor unceremoniously kicked to the curb.

Categories : MTA Politics
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