Andrea Bernstein appears in the following:
Monday, October 29, 2012
UPDATED WITH A WHOLE BUNCH OF NEW INFO FROM THE MTA: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his MTA chief, Joe Lhota, say the danger of flooding of the East River subway tunnels is quite real.
"Our subway system and salt water do not mix," Lhota said in a briefing with the Governor this morning. "Salt water can corrode switches quite easily." Lhota added that would put the general ability for the system to function "in jeopardy."
Salt water corrosion of switches - some of them 100 years old -- could have long-term, unknowable effects on the subway system.
According to a press release sent late Monday, "MTA New York City Transit has taken strong measures to protect the subway tunnels that cross under the Hudson and Harlem rivers. However, the unprecedented levels of storm surge predicted to accompany Hurricane Sandy present a significant threat to those tunnels and to the speedy restoration of service after the storm." (FULL RELEASE BELOW)
An hour after the Governor's briefing, Mayor Michael Bloomberg downplayed the threat of subway flooding. "If a little water gets in, you pump it out," the Mayor said, arguing that the biggest threat would be inundated trains.
His office offered no immediate explanation for the differing views of the threat of salt water to the subway system.
Five subway tunnels that run under the East River could be in danger, according to an analysis by Columbia University: the A-C, the 2-3, the 4-5, the R, and the F. MTA spokesman Charles Seaton says the MTA has stationed personnel at the mouth of each of the tunnels to monitor flooding. That information is transmitted to a dispatcher. The personnel will remain there "as long as it is safe," Seaton said.
During Tropical Storm Irene, as WNYC reported a year ago, the city came within a foot of seeing the subway tunnels flood. Officials just predicted Sandy will peak at 11.7 feet above flood stage, versus 9.5 feet for Irene.
From my earlier report:
Columbia Univeristy Professor Klaus Jacob has worked with the MTA to model what would happen if you couple sea level rises – the FTA says to expect four feet by the end of this century – with intense storms like Irene. In forty minutes, Jacob says, all the East River Tunnels would be underwater. Jacob says he took those results to the MTA, and asked, if that happened, how long would it take to restore the flooded subway to a degree of functionality?
“And there was a big silence in the room because the system is so old. Many of the items that would be damaged by the intrusion of the saltwater into the system could not recover quickly. You have to take them apart. You have to clean them from salt, dry them, reassemble them, test them and cross your fingers that they work.”
In a best-case scenario, Jacob calculated that it would take 29 days to get the subway working again. But in the meantime, a halted subway would almost halt the city’s economy, which, he says produces $4 billion a day in economic activity.
Here's the full statement from the MTA, released about 4 pm Tuesday:
MTA New York City Transit has taken strong measures to protect the subway tunnels that cross under the Hudson and Harlem rivers. However, the unprecedented levels of storm surge predicted to accompany Hurricane Sandy present a significant threat to those tunnels and to the speedy restoration of service after the storm.
Station entrances and sidewalk vent gratings in low-lying areas such as lower Manhattan have been covered with plywood and reinforced with several feet of sandbags. However, those measures are designed to slow the entrance of water into the system, not to prevent flooding. In addition, the pumps installed throughout the subway system to remove water run on electricity, and will not function if electric power to the system is interrupted.
NYCT personnel and New York City police officers are monitoring conditions in all stations, and patrol trains travel the entire subway system looking for signs of water infiltration. NYCT personnel are also removing stop motors, which interact with automatic brake equipment at track level, so they would not be damaged during any flooding.
If the threat of tunnel flooding appears likely, NYCT is prepared to remove power from the signal system. Because water conducts electricity, and salt water conducts electricity particularly well, signal equipment that is submerged in seawater would be especially vulnerable to damage if power remained on.
When salt water is removed from the system, salt deposits will remain on contact surfaces that will accelerate corrosion, causing potential failures. All those surfaces must be thoroughly cleaned, but they cannot always be cleaned in the field, and some cannot be cleaned at all and must be replaced.
It is difficult to predict the amount of time required to pump water from a flooded tunnel and bring its equipment, as well as adjoining stations, back into service. It depends on the height of the storm surge, how rapidly it penetrates the protective barriers, the length and diameter of tunnel tubes and the extent of flooding into adjacent underground sections and stations.
NYCT has three pump trains available to remove water from under-river tunnels. But the wide range of variables means that merely pumping out water from flooded tunnels – before restoring signals and other equipment – is estimated to take anywhere from 14 hours to more than four days. And as a general rule, the longer a tunnel is flooded, the longer it will take to return to service.
The last time subway tunnels under rivers flooded was December 11, 1992, when all subway lines were suspended for a time and three tunnels filled with water. Some were restored the same day, but the Canarsie Tube carrying the L line under the East River was out of service for several days.
Friday, October 26, 2012
As Hurricane Sandy approaches, we thought of this, our story from a year ago, in which we reported that if the storm surge had been just a foot higher during Hurricane Irene, New York's east river subway tunnels would have been flooded. An alarming prospect, but one the federal government warns could be increasingly common -- and costly.
Here's the story:
On the Sunday after Tropical Storm Irene blasted through the five boroughs of New York City, the city exhaled. Huge swaths of Manhattan hadn’t flooded, high winds hadn’t caused widespread damage. Perhaps no one was as relieved as then-MTA CEO Jay Walder, who had just taken the unprecedented step of shutting down the entire transit system.
“The worst fear that we had, which was that the under-river tunnels on the East River would flood with salt water, were not realized. We certainly dodged something there,” Walder said at a post-Irene briefing with city officials.
What the city dodged was the ghost of climate change future — higher sea levels, intense storms, and elevated amounts of precipitation, all of which could combine to cause widespread flooding of the subway system.
Here's the full story:
Friday, October 26, 2012
The song "You're The Top" from the Broadway musical Anything Goes by Cole Porter is filled with superlatives of the highest and lowest variety. In it, two friends sing words to each other like "You're the Nile, you're the Tower of Pisa / You're the smile on the Mona Lisa." And they then compare that to themselves with lines like, "I'm a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop."
WNYC's Director of News Special Initiatives, Andrea Bernstein, joins us to share her story of uncovering the story behind some political lyrics that fall into the song's latter category that were lost for half a century.
Monday, October 15, 2012
The New York MTA has released its new fare hike proposals, bringing the cost of a monthly MetroCard to as much as $125 under one scenario.
The hikes, which came as the authority also proposed a one dollar rise in cash tolls over most of its bridges and tunnels -- to $7.50 -- are not unexpected. The authority has presented a virtually endless series of hikes to pay for its operations in its current budget.
MTA chief Joe Lhota said the increases are unavoidable. "Costs that the MTA does not exercise control over, namely those for debt service, pensions, energy, paratransit, and employee and retiree health care, continue to increase beyond the rate of inflation."
The proposals will now go to hearings before a final option is settled by the MTA board.
Our Jim O'Grady sends these notes from MTA's headquarters. We'll have a fleshed out version soon.
The current base fare of MetroCard is $2.25. A 30-day unlimited pass is $104, and a 7-day pass is $29.
There are four proposed versions of the increase, which the MTA is calling 1A, 1B, 2A and 2B. (Click on the below graphic for more detail.)
Under Proposal 1, the base fare would rise to $2.50. Under proposal 1A, the bonus discount would remain unchanged, effectively providing a per-trip fare of $2.34. Under this proposal, the 30-day unlimited MetroCard would rise to $112 and the 7-day would rise to $30. Under proposal 1B, the bonus discount would be eliminated but the increases to time-based cards would be lower. The 30-day would rise to $109 and the 7-day would remain unchanged.
Under Proposal 2, the base fare would remain unchanged. Under Proposal 2A, the bonus discount would be reduced to 5%, effectively increasing the per-trip fare to $2.14. Under this proposal, the 30-day unlimited MetroCard would rise to $125 and the 7-day would rise to $34. Under Proposal 2B, the bonus discount would be eliminated, the 30-day card would rise to $119, and the 7-day would rise to $32.
Under each of these proposals, the $1 surcharge for purchasing a new MetroCard would be implemented.
Eight public hearings are scheduled from November 7 to 15. The public can also record videotaped comments at MTA headquarters and train stations in Long Island and Westchester. From the MTA's website: Members of the public are also encouraged to submit written comments via to the MTA's website, or register to speak at a public hearing by calling (718) 521-3333 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. MTA Board Members will review transcripts of all public hearings and submitted videos, as well as copies of all written comments submitted via the web.
The MTA says 2013 fare and toll increase must generate $450 million annually. The 2015 fare increase must raise $500 million annually.
38% of fare trips use bonus MetroCard
31% use 3o-day
16% - 7-day
10% - pay per ride
5% - cash
Most Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North tickets would rise by 8% to 9.3%, with the fee increase based on distance.
E-ZPass discounts (vs cash) remain.
RFK Bridge, Throgs Neck Bridge, Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, Queens Midtown Tunnel:
E-ZPass - from $4.80 to $5.30
Cash - from $6.50 to $7.50
Verrazano Narrows Bridge:
E-ZPass round trip - from $9.60 to $10.60
Staten Island resident E-ZPass rate: from $5.76 to $6.36
Henry Hudson Bridge
E-ZPass - $2.20 to $2.43
Tolls by mail (camera snaps license plate, bill mailed to driver; this bridge is cashless) - $4 to $5
Cross Bay, Marine Parkway Bridges
E-ZPass $1.80 to $1.99
Friday, October 12, 2012
When the NY MTA agreed to sell the Atlantic Yards to Forest City Ratner to build the Barclays Arena and some 17 other buildings, the authority's board waxed enthusiastic about how the city was getting a new subway entrance out of the deal.
But so far, in the mornings, it's totally dead.
Pretty much every morning since the stop's been opened, for about three weeks -- and we've checked -- it looks like this. Seven am, 8 am, no one. A sort of strange, post-Apocalypse feel.
As we've been reporting, lots of fans are going to events at the arena by transit. The 18,000-seat arena has just 541 car spots on site, about 150 of those for season or VIP ticket-holders. Even last night, when Brooklyn-born Barbra Steisand performed, and drew a heavy crowd from the suburbs, people took the train.
The subway stop is set in a vast, uninviting plaza, with not much there to entice a morning subway rider, like newsstands or coffee-shops.
However, once you do cross Flatbush Avenue from Park Slope to get there, it is by far the cleanest and easiest way to enter the subway stop. Working escalators. Plenty of turnstiles. Tidy, well-lit hallways that don't smell (yet). And the shortest, least confusing ascent (or descent, in the case of the B-Q), from any entrance.
Word from transit officials: "Use It!"
Ratner, BTW, paid $76 million for the new subway entrance. But the whole deal with Ratner was heavily criticized at the time as a sweetheart deal for the developer, which was allowed to work with the MTA over a period of years to develop a bid to obtain the railyards for its arena.
Ratner offered $100 million less for the Yards than the rival developer -- but the MTA board argued that building a new subway entrance would in part compensate.
After much pressure, the MTA opened the bidding process for the rail yards to other developers, but then rejected the one other bid it got because it wasn't as detailed as Ratner's bid.
Monday, October 08, 2012
Andrea Bernstein, WNYC political director during the 2008 campaign and current political coverage coordinator, talks about the post-debate polls and how the campaigns are re-setting.
Friday, October 05, 2012
Songwriter Cole Porter had a brilliant way with words. So when I was listening to the lyrics of "You're the Top" from the musical “Anything Goes,” I got to wondering about the rhyme, and what made Porter equate GOP with "flop"?
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Not too long ago, an ad for Audi cars sought to relate to the average driver with grimly shot footage of rutted roads, rotting bridges, and frayed guardrails. “Across the nation, over 100,000 miles of roads and bridges are in disrepair,” a female announcer intones.
That this rhetoric could turn up in an ad is a metaphor of the current acceptance of America’s rather sorry infrastructure. In its latest report card, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave American infrastructure a "D.”
In 2008, Republicans and Democrats pretty much agreed that investing in infrastructure is a national priority. Here's an excerpt from the 2008 GOP platform:
We support a level of investment in the nation's transportation system that will promote a healthy economy, sustain jobs, and keep America globally competitive. We need to improve the system's performance and capacity to deal with congestion, move a massive amount of freight, reduce traffic fatalities, and ensure mobility across both rural and urban areas.
We urgently need to preserve the highway, transit, and air facilities built over the last century so they can serve generations to come. At the same time, we are committed to minimizing transportation's impact on climate change, our local environments, and the nation's energy use. Careful reforms of environmental reviews and the permitting process should speed projects to completion.
It's hard to remember that that was just four years ago -- when Senator Barack Obama was running against Senator John McCain.
In 2012, supporting infrastructure couldn't be more partisan.
In one of the most-quoted pieces of video />made this campaign, President Barack Obama argues that success relies on collective action, including big infrastructure projects. Obama: "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help... Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."
But to Republicans, that sounded like an argument against individual ingenuity. "We are the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the ones who wanted a better life, the driven ones," former Governor Mitt Romney said in his acceptance speech, describing all the reasons our parents and grandparents came to this county, including "freedom to build a life. And yes, freedom to build a business with their own hands."
It was huge applause line. The theme even became a country song Lane Turner performed at the convention, with the refrain, "I built it, with no help from Uncle Sam."
That Uncle Sam has a big role in building infrastructure has been a pretty consistent theme for President Obama. His $800 stimulus bill had big sums for highways, transit, and high speed rail. He's proposed big transportation budgets every year.
But republicans see it differently. Arguing the country can't afford more debt, Republican Governors sent stimulus money back to the federal government. In Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida, they stopped high speed rail projects in their tracks. But they weren't the first republicans to send big bucks back to D.C.
But before Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida had even won office, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie started a modern trend: sending billions back to the federal government for a local transit project rather than risk incurring extra debt for New Jersey taxpayers. In October, 2010, Christie pulled the plug on an already-started transit tunnel under the Hudson River -- the so-called ARC tunnel. " In the end the taxpayers of New Jersey would be on the hook for every nickel of the cost overruns," Christie said, explaining the decision.
"When you become governor, and you start to become presented with the information I was presented with you're presented with now a choice of a project that I do think is a worthwhile project but that we simply can't afford," Christie added.
Christie's Democratic counterpart in New York, Andrew Cuomo, took a different approach. Without the financing in hand, Cuomo greenlighted his own massive infrastructure project -- a new $5 billion Tappan Zee bridge.
"As a society, as a government, as a state, we have to be able to get to yes," Cuomo told reporters after he'd applied for the funds. "We have to be able to build a bridge that needs to be replaced. If we want this state to be what we want this state to be you have to be able to tackle a project like this."
Saturday, September 15, 2012
On This Week in Politics, WNYC political reporters run down some of the top political stories from the week that was, providing insight and analysis on local, state and national political issues that touch the region.
Friday, September 14, 2012
Two New York Republican state senators who supported gay marriage last year are in virtual ties with their GOP opponents in vote counts from Thursday's primaries.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
You could call it two conventions, two governors. Both Republican Chris Christie and Democrat Andrew Cuomo are fiscally conservative governors of populous northeaster states. But the two men, both seen to have presidential ambitions in 2016, have wildly different approaches to their party's national conventions.
Friday, August 24, 2012
WNYC's Andrea Bernstein compares the political atmosphere in 2008 to the political atmosphere this year as we head into the conventions next week.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
In response to a lawsuit filed by seven suburban county governments, a New York State judge ruled Wednesday that a payroll tax suburbanites pay for the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority is unconstitutional. Government leaders from Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties are among those who sued to overturn the tax of 34 cents per hundred dollars of payroll for all employers, including freelancers.
The 2009 law was meant to bail out the MTA from a $2 billion a year short fall. The MTA said in a statement: “We will vigorously appeal today’s ruling. We believe this opinion will be overturned, since four prior challenges to the constitutionality of the law making the same argument have been dismissed.”
Government leaders from Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties were among those who sued to overturn the "mobility tax."
The tax brings the transit authority more than a billion dollars a year. The tax applies to all 12 New York State counties served by the MTA.
In his ruling, State Supreme Court Justice R. Bruce Cozzins Jr. agreed with the plaintiffs' argument that the tax does not serve substantial state interest, and improperly supercedes the county governments.
Paul Steely White, the President of Transportation Alternatives, a transit advocacy group, said in a statement: "This decision threatens the foundation of the state’s economy. Public transportation is critical to the New York City metropolitan area—an area which provides 45 percent of the state’s tax revenue, paying for countless public services from Niagara Falls to Montauk. We hope Governor Cuomo resolves this case, and that the appeals court will consider the substantial state interest when reviewing this ruling.”
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Okay, no. A Glee episode a few months back shows the character Quinn (cheerleader, former pregnant girl) looking away from the wheel to read the text "Where are you? HURRY" Now the US DOT has made it into an anti-texting PSA.
It's not quite as powerful as the AT&T ads that ran during the Olympics showing, variously, brain dead and seriously injured teens, and siblings and parents of people who died while texting. But hey, it's Quinn. And Ray LaHood means it when he says he wants you to drive safely.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Some two thirds of New Yorkers say bike lanes are "a good idea," according to a New York Times poll. By a 66 to 27 percent margin, New Yorkers are in favor of bike lanes.
The poll shows even larger margins in favor of bike lanes than last year's Quinnipiac College poll, which found 58 percent of New Yorkers favor bike lanes, compared to 37 percent that do not. But because different polls have different methodologies, it's hard to conclude a trend from two different polls.
A more recent Q-poll found support for bike share at 74 to 19, up slightly from 72 to 23 in October. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday bike share would be delayed until next spring because of software issues. It was originally to have launched last month.
The New York Times concluded that "the poll results suggest that the city's residents have gradually become accustomed to bicycle lanes, which have been frequent targest of tabloid ire and are already emerging as a flashpoint in the 2013 mayoral race."
Friday, August 17, 2012
(UPDATED 9:55am) There will be no shiny blue Citi Bikes on the streets of New York until March.
"Unfortunately there are software issues" said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg Friday on his radio show on WOR with John Gambling. The mayor said: "One of the newspapers keeps writing, 'you're hiding something.' Yeah, well, nothing. The software doesn't work. Duh. Until it works, we're not going to put it out until it does work."
"We did think there would be a possibility of a partial launch but at this point --
At which point, Gambling interjected: "Next year?"
"The spring," Mayor Bloomberg responded. "Hopefully the software will work by then. We want to make sure that it works. Washington and Boston are pretty good tests." The Mayor added that "mother nature" makes winter a poor time to launch a system.
A press release from the NYC Department of Transportation (full text below) sent out shortly after the Mayor's radio statement clarified the launch date will be "March" for phase 1 of the program, which will include 7,000 bikes at 420 stations. The statement did not specify what neighborhoods, or with what pace the bikes would be deployed.
Chicago also delayed its launch until spring, and before its own system went live, Boston delayed so as not to have the system get going just as a cold, northeast winter was getting under way. Bike share relies on physical activity, and streets clear of snow and ice.
The New York bike share program was to have launched July 31. But that day came and went with city officials tight-lipped about why. Mayor Bloomberg only said the problem had to do with software issues.
"It really is very advanced technology," the Mayor said Friday. "Each station is like a dock, each place you stick in a bike is a computer, and everything runs on solar power so you don't need a lot of wiring and there's no burden on the electrical system. There's an enormous number of transactions you have to communicate in real time to central computers."
With 10,000 bikes at full roll-out New York's system will be, by several orders of magnitude, the largest system in U.S., and the largest in North America. The next largest U.S. system is in Washington, with about 2,000 bikes.
Even before Friday's announcement, there were indications that the initial, breathless announcements may have been overly optimistic. When it named its sponsor, the city let it slip out that launching the system would take 13 months, and that neighborhoods like Park Slope and the Upper West Side wouldn't get bike share until 2013.
That turned out to be because finding a sponsor took so much longer than anticipated, and because of that the vendor who is supplying New York with its bikes, Alta Bicycle Share, didn't have any money in hand to order bikes until months later than planned.
Alta is also preparing large bike shares for San Francisco and Chicago. The Chicago system, set to be 4,000 bikes, is similarly delayed, and the losing vendor in that city has sued, saying the Chicago transportation commissioner, Gabe Klein, had an inappropriate consulting relationship with Alta. A Klein spokesman says there's nothing untoward and that Klein recused himself from Chicago's selection.
Alta is the only vendor in the U.S. who has undertaken large-scale bike share systems, running both the Washington, DC and Boston networks. Those programs are widely deemed to be successful, and both are expanding. They both use a previous version of software, made by a different vendor, than newer Alta bike share systems. Boston's launch was also delayed by several months when it opened with 600 bikes in Summer 2011.
On Thursday, at an unrelated press conference in Coney Island, Brooklyn, the mayor said: “We’re trying to figure out when we can put a date that we’re sure or reasonably sure that it will work."
He said the reason for New York's delay is straightforward. “Look,” he said, “everybody wants to say there’s a secret agenda here. The software doesn’t work. And putting it out when the software doesn’t work, it wouldn’t work. Period.”
He wet on: “The fascinating thing is those people who screamed they didn’t want bicycles are now screaming ‘where are they?’. So I guess we’ve come a long way and [are] going in the right direction. Nobody would put it out quicker than me.”
On Friday, cycling advocates praised the Mayor's edition. " “While we are eager for Citi Bike to begin, it’s more crucial that this ground-breaking transit system be launched correctly, not quickly, " said Paul Steely White, the Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives.
"New York’s public bike share program will not only be the largest bike share system in the Western Hemisphere, it will also be the city’s first brand-new, full-scale form of public transit since the subway’s debut more than 100 years ago—this is not a moment to rush. When bike share launches in 2013, it will transform New York City by giving New Yorkers unprecedented convenience and freedom of mobility. In time, the circumstances of Citi Bike’s launch will be all but forgotten and we’ll all be enjoying a city made safer, healthier and less congested," Steely White added.
The contract inked between Alta Bicycle Share and New York City last September, which Transportation Nation has obtained, stipulated the company was to have least 1,000 bikes on the street on or before July 31.
Thereafter, Alta was supposed to have added at least 75 stations per ten business days, building to 7,000 bikes by September 30.
The announcement came on a summer Friday, typical a time politicians use to announce news they hope will garner little attention.
Bloomberg said Thursday there were no penalties for a delay.
“It’s all private money. And the people who’ve put up the money, particularly the two big sponsors, Citibank and MasterCard, are fully aware of what’s going on and they have been as supportive as you possibly can be. The city loses because we don’t have bicycles, but the city doesn’t lose any money or anything, and we all want to get it done as quickly — but you’ve got to do it right.”
The city’s Department of Transportation and Alta -- which is contractually not allowed to speak without prior DOT approval -- had been ciphers on the delay. Even Citi Bike’s official twitter account has been dark for a week.
But on Friday, the city issued DOT its longest statement in months on bike share.
The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), bike share operator New York City Bike Share (NYCBS) today announced that the Citi Bike system will launch in March 2013 with an initial phase of 7,000 bikes implemented at 420 stations. The timeline, agreed to by all parties, does not affect the Citi Bike sponsorship structure, which uses $41 million in private funding from Citi to underwrite the system for five years and ensures that NYCBS will split profits with the City.
“New York City demands a world-class bike share system, and we need to ensure that Citi Bike launches as flawlessly as New Yorkers expect on Day One,” said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “The enthusiasm for this program continues to grow and we look forward to bringing this affordable new transportation option to New Yorkers without cost to taxpayers.”
“NYCBS continues to be committed to bringing the largest and best solar-powered bike share system in the world to New York City,” said Alison Cohen, President. “We recognize that New Yorkers are eagerly anticipating the launch of the bike share system and we will deliver on that promise.”
NYCBS continues work to conclude manufacture and testing of the high-performance software necessary to operate the new system, which is being tailored for New York City. The system uses new solar power arrays and circuit boards, and engineers will continue to thoroughly test data communications, power management and payment systems to ensure overall system performance. Following the March launch, work will continue to expand the system to 10,000 bikes, covering parts of Manhattan and from Long Island City to parts of Brooklyn.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
The attorney general believes a section New York charities law enables him to regulate any group that collects more than $25,000 from New York state donors.
Thursday, August 02, 2012
Consistent with his strategy of focusing like a laser on New York - and of avoiding any flubs - Cuomo's team says he'll just fly by the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this summer.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Now we know.
The New York MTA spent $1.35 million on giant granite bollards that it later removed outside the Atlantic Terminal station.
To put that in perspective, a year of service* on the B51 bus line, which the MTA discontinued in 2010, cost $800,000 a year.
The bollards, much-reviled by architects and planners and panned by the Brooklyn Paper as "sarcophagi," were installed in 2010 for unspecified security reasons.
To be sure, the Atlantic Terminal has been a terror target in the past.
But the huge granite slabs were more imposing than simpler steel bollards outside the more heavily trafficked Penn Station or Grand Central Terminal.
The Atlantic Terminal bollards also blocked pedestrian flow to and from the Terminal, which houses the LIRR and nine subway lines.
This, it was pointed out, presented a potential problem when huge crowds of people start to flow through the plaza for events at the next-door Barclays Center, set to open next month.
The MTA also came to the conclusion that the bollards were a bad idea. It decided to replace them with a smaller, sleeker model, like the ones at Grand Central.
About a week ago, the authority began to take the bollards down, bringing the total cost of the installation and removal to $1.35 million.
I might never have unearthed this information had I not passed by the Atlantic Terminal Monday morning, trying to grab a quick photo so you all could see how the plaza is coming along. (I also regretted not having the headline "Never Mind The Bollards," in our initial post, and was hoping for a second chance.)
The construction workers had other ideas. A piece of cardboard came down in front of my iPhone. I would not be photographing the site because it was "a Homeland Security project."
Like, um, the World Trade Center site, which must be one of the most photographed construction sites on earth?
I was told (though maybe in not-so-polite language), that this decision had been made by MTA police. I was offered the opportunity to have them tell me in person.
That's an opportunity I declined.
But I did later email the MTA's chief spokesperson, Adam Lisberg, for an explanation. And, while he was at it, could he please tell me how much the MTA had spent on the bollards in the first place?
Lisberg, a former New York Daily News journalist, told me quite clearly that anyone could photograph the site and that if I should be obstructed again I should stand my ground so I could do my job. In so many words.
So the next day, I went back.
I was greeted no more happily than I was the day before. This time half a dozen construction workers, and three MTA police, came to make the point. But, per Adam "L-i-s-b-e-r-g, the MTA communications chief," I would not leave.
Did I have documentation? Well, I had the constitution of the United States of America. Had they seen the Bill of Rights? Also, my press pass -- though that's not required to photograph a public plaza.
Besides, the construction fence was mostly down so, unlike the day before, I couldn't physically be blocked.
So I took my photos. (And, unbeknownst to me, was photographed doing so by my colleague, Emily Botein.)
Initially, the MTA re-issued a statement (which TN ran last week) citing the total cost of the Atlantic Terminal renovation -- $108 million -- and the cost of the new security project, which came in at $3.486 million.
Today, the authority furnished further details.
The total cost of building the 15 granite bollards: $1.2 million.
The total cost of demolishing them and removing the granite: $150,000.
A $1.35 million mistake.
*To be sure, service is paid for from the operating budget, while the capital budget pays for everything from bollards to the Second Avenue subway. So you'll hear that comparing one to the other is like comparing your lunch money to the loan you took out to redo your kitchen. But at the end of the day, it all ultimately falls to straphangers or taxpayers to foot the bill.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
(UPDATED WITH MTA INFORMATION) The imposing concrete bollards surrounding Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal station are coming down.
The so-called "coffins" appeared without warning in 2010, when the new terminal was opened. "More Extreme Than NYPD Counterterror Guidelines" mocked a Streetsblog headline. Urban planners decried the bollards as pedestrian-unfriendly and a backwards model of city design.
The Long Island Rail Road and nine subway lines stop at the Atlantic Terminal station, which will serve the new Barclays Center arena when it opens in September.
New York's MTA cited unspecified security concerns in installing what the Brooklyn Paper called "sarcophagi."
Workers there say the bollards will be replaced with "something else."
A spokesman for the MTA said that "something else" is new, smaller bollards. The work is part of a $3.5 million security upgrade at the subway terminal.