On May 25th, 1979, six-year-old Etan Patz waved goodbye to his mother at his front door in Soho to take the bus by himself to school for the very first time. Etan never made it to school, and President Ronald Reagan named May 25th National Missing Child Day in his honor. Now, 33 years later, police began scouring the basement of a building just two blocks from his home, following a lead that there may be evidence there. Janet Babin, reporter for Takeaway partner WNYC, was at the scene yesterday.
Most New York University professors oppose the university’s downtown expansion plan, according to a new survey.
Air travelers in the New York area who want to improve their chances of leaving on time might want to fly out of LaGuardia. The airport posted big gains in on-time departure statistics over last year, while JFK International Airport only improved somewhat, and Newark International landed on the bottom.
LaGuardia ranks 6th among the nation's 29 major airports in on-time departures so far this year, according to statistics released today from the U.S. Department of Transportation. That compares to January - February 2011, when LaGuardia ranked a lowly 23rd in on-time departures.
JFK International Airport did see some improvement, but the change was not as dramatic as at LaGuardia. JFK ranked near the bottom of the list in on-time departures last year; so far this year the airport ranks 12th when compared to the nation’s 29 major airports.
Last year’s January blizzard in New York, along with record setting snowfall levels in the region last winter, may have been a factor in LaGuardia’s improved departure performance this year. But if weather were the only factor, similar gains would have likely been seen at JFK and Newark. And that was not the case.
And weather can’t account for Newark International Airport’s on-time departure record; it’s even worse than last year, despite the mild weather. The airport ranked last among the nation’s biggest airports so far this year for on-time departures. In January and February of 2011, it ranked 27th.
The data also ranks the on-time arrival rate of major airlines. Virgin America topped that list; it had the highest on-time arrival rate of the 15 airlines that file statistics with the Bureau of Transportation; while United Airlines had the lowest.
New York University has agreed to scale back massive downtown expansion plan, following requests from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
Port Authority officials are waiting to find out whether the federal government will allow a project involving the Bayonne Bridge to move through a faster permit process.
The contractor hired by the MTA to operate the crane that collapsed Tuesday was hired after it submitted the lowest bid for the job. Yonkers Contracting Company is a large firm that's worked on a number of public works projects, like the World Trade Center site. But it also was fined by Occupational Safety and Heath Administration for safety violations at least four times in the last decade.
On city subways at least, New Yorkers know the drill. For the most part people give up their seats to an elderly or disabled person and often let people get off the cars before entering. But city bus etiquette can be more confusing.
Work at the site of the crane collapse that killed one man Tuesday will resume on Monday, according to the MTA. Investigations into what caused pieces of the crane to snap off continue, led by the New York City Department of Buildings and OSHA.
The incident happened Tuesday evening at 34th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, the area where the MTA is extending the Number 7 Subway Line.
Meanwhile, the City Council and the MTA continue to be at odds over who should have oversight of the Number 7 Train extension site, and other MTA construction sites.
As a state agency, the MTA is exempt from city safety laws.
East Side City Council Member Jessica Lappin was one of the people directly responsible for making city crane safety rules tougher after a total of nine people died in crane collapses in 2008. Lappin, along with Council Speaker Christine Quinn, continues to push for the MTA to adhere to city construction safety rules.
“I do think the MTA should stop pointing fingers and should follow the rules that we have already set out,” Lappin said.
The MTA said it has the same goal as the city, that is, safety. "The MTA like all other state agencies has to follow state codes. We try to keep our sites as safe as possible," said Adam Lisberg, the director of External Communications for the MTA.
After the 2008 incidents, Lappin sponsored and the council passed four bills that strengthen crane safety rules. One requires crane operators to undergo a thirty hour safety and training course, with an eight hour refresher course every three years.
Another new law makes engineers create site safety plans before cranes are used at a construction site.
A third bill prohibits nylon slings, which were found to be the cause of the March 2008 crane collapse.
The laws also give the city ability to put a compliance safety officer on the ground at construction site where repeated safety problems occur with a particular contractor.
There wasn’t a city compliance safety officer at the 34th street site because the MTA is exempt from these bills, emphasized Councilwoman Lappin. "That’s really the whole issue here," she said.
The councilwoman and the MTA said they continued to talk Thursday about adhering to city safety standards on MTA work sites.
The agency ordered inspections Wednesday of all MTA construction cranes.
There are ten cranes on the Number 7 Subway extension site, including the one that collapsed. The MTA reported that all of them were operating with valid permits from NYC Department of Buildings. The other nine all passed the new round of inspections. Fourteen cranes on the MTA’s East Side Access Construction site all checked out with valid certifications. The MTA said all were re-inspected before being used on Thursday.
Additionally, the MTA said safety briefings were held before the start of every shift. At the Fulton Street Transit Center, there is one 45-ton crane that had no reported problems on reinspection.
The other major MTA construction site, the massive Second Ave Subway project, did have one crane with an "illegible" certificate. But the MTA said it has no reason to believe the certification is expired.
Engineers have found defects in the hoisting system of the construction crane that crashed down at a Manhattan worksite, killing a worker, according to the New York City Department of Buildings.
UPDATED New York City and the NY MTA are trading shots over who owns the site of a crane collapse that killed one worker and injured four others on Tuesday.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a likely 2013 mayoral candidate, said that the site is controlled by the MTA right now, and that means that State rules — not city construction regulations, apply.
“Right now, since it is an MTA work site, city agencies have to be invited…on site as opposed to every other work site in the city of New York,”
But the MTA shot back with a statement of its own.
"Crane contractors working on MTA construction projects are required to obtain annual operating certificates from the NYC Department of Buildings, and to post their current inspection certifications on the crane. The site of yesterday’s incident is city-owned property, which also gives the NYC Department of Buildings jurisdiction to inspect cranes there. The two attached documents show the reports from the two most recent NYC Department of Buildings inspections of the Yonkers Contracting Company Inc. crane in operation during yesterday’s incident."
In July, the MTA says, the the NYC Department of Buildings performed an annual inspection of the crane. Its written report indicated “No Deficiencies” at the top of the first page, and finished with the conclusion “No deficiencies found on crane at time of inspection.”
A second inspection, scheduled for January, was rescheduled because the crane was in operation. It was rescheduled -- for today.
After we initially posted this story, MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg emailed us a note downplaying the dispute: "The city and the MTA are not feuding over who owns the property," Lisberg wrote. " City Council Speaker Christine Quinn wants to change the law regarding oversight of construction; we believe it's an idea worthy of study."
But the controversy is the latest wrinkle in the complications caused by the fact that the state runs the authority, which is largely associated with the city. But the legislature -- with a large upstate representation often hostile to the city -- controls the budget. And the board is appointed mostly by the governor, who doesn't always see eye-to-eye with the mayor on policy.
The MTA has suspended all work at the site until further notice. It has also ordered the inspection of all cranes at MTA construction sites in the city.
A variety of agencies, including the police department and the Manhattan district attorney, are investigating the cause of the collapse.
The MTA said Yonkers Contracting Company owned and operated the crane. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the company was fined four times — three of those violations were classified as serious. In 2010, the firm was fined $3,000 for a lack of adequate worker training.
Calls placed to the company for comment were not immediately returned.
Michael Simmermeyer, 30, of Burlington, N.J. was pronounced dead following Tuesday's accident at the No. 7 subway line extension construction site at 34th Street and 11th Avenue. One other person was hospitalized in serious condition and three people were treated for minor injuries.
Simmermeyer worked at the site with his father, his co-workers said.
"Both great guys to work with and hang out with. It's just horrible," said Joe Travers, an ironworker from the Rockaways. Simmermeyer was "one of the nicest guys I've ever worked with," he said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city has made crane safety and construction reforms in the wake of the May 2008 East Side crane collapse that killed a crane operator and fellow worker. The crane's owner is currently on trial for manslaughter.
"We've made aggressive reforms to construction safety and crane safety," Bloomberg said Wednesday.
The crane was set up on the second of three levels on the construction site on Manhattan's West Side, city officials said. The FDNY said the boom came apart in two pieces — one 80 feet long and the other 40 feet long.
Jack Sullivan, deputy chief for the FDNY EMS, said it was possible one of the workers had been struck by the crane's boom. The crane operator and someone who worked with him were among those who were injured.
He described the removal of the workers from the construction site, about 60 feet below street level, as "extremely dangerous."
"We had construction material that wasn't stable," he said.
Dozens of first responders came to the accident site.
Thomas Rushkin, a retired city police officer and private investigator, said he was on his way home when he saw emergency vehicles heading over and got a glance at the pieces of the crane.
"The arm is broken in half," he said, adding that it appeared that one part of the crane was on a level below the street.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority released a statement saying they plan to work with all proper authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident.
"On behalf of the entire MTA, we pray for the recovery of the workers injured as a result of this tragic accident," the statement said.
The city and the MTA are trading shots over who owns the site of a crane collapse that killed one worker and injured four others on Tuesday.
For New Yorkers, all rules are just suggestions.
Exit at the rear of the bus? Fuggedaboutit!
“Please exit through the rear door,” quips the sonorous lady in the recorded messages that drone on over the din of noisy passengers. There's a reason for that -- it makes bus riding much faster for everyone. In some cities, you get a ticket for exiting at the front.
In New York?
Iris Holland was oblivious to the message as she exited from the front of the M15 bus onto Second Avenue the other day.
“I’m going for physical therapy, so instead of getting out at the end and having to walk, I sit near the front and get out at the front,” said Holland.
Pretty much no one listens to the admonitions. Which are there, of course, to make the buses move faster.
It's a bit better, but not much, on the city's select buses, where you don't have to wait for people to exit before you can get on and pay. But you have to buy a ticket, or get a receipt before you board, which causes no end of confusion, even -- or especially -- among seasoned New York bus riders.
The other day along New York City’s M34 bus route, a gaggle of would-be passengers queued up for an approaching cross-town ride. It was orderly enough; no pushing, shoving or angry glances to speak of.
But there was some confusion around the payment kiosk.
“How do you get a bus ticket?” asked Alice Sramkova, visiting from Prague, Czech Republic, with her two pre-teen daughters trailing behind her. And she wasn't the only one - several New Yorkers kept within ear shot hoping to hear an answer.
Other passengers leaned in to offer advice. “This is your ticket,” said one, pointing to her Metro Card. “No, your receipt is your ticket,” clarified another. By now a circle of uninitiated passengers surrounded Sramkova. Many did not realize they had to pay before the bus stopped. “I guess we got on the bus twice without having a valid ticket,” smiled Sramkova.
So it is with the NYC MTA’s so called “Select” bus service – that is, buses designed to speed up designated routes. To get them to move faster, the MTA has initiated several changes, that include limited stops, paying before boarding the bus with a Metro card only, boarding via the front or the back doors, and dedicated bus lanes.
According to the MTA, the changes trim up to 20-% off of travel times.
And on the M34, that’s saying something. It may feel like whatever bus you’re on is the slowest, but in fact, the MTA found that the M34 was among the slowest in the city. The route also carries more than 33,000 riders a day.
Before Select buses, the average speed of any city bus was 4.5 miles per hour – that’s only a hair faster than walking. The MTA began speedier service along 34th Street in November 2011, but passengers are still getting used to it. The service was first offered on Fordham Road in the Bronx in 2008. Select buses also run up First and down Second Avenues, on the M15 line.
Even though they’ve been around longer than the 34th Street Select Buses, there were still some blank stares and misunderstandings as passengers tried to board a Select Bus at 14th Street and Second Avenue last week.
Paying off board does not seem to come naturally to many passengers. “I don’t see what the big deal is to use your Metro Card and get on the bus; it’s a waste,” said rider Joan Marks.
The MTA said the purpose of paying off board is to save time of course. Think how long it takes to swipe all those Metro Cards as people enter the front of the bus, and then there are those who pay the $2.25 fare with coins, taking even longer. All that time people are paying, your bus is going nowhere.
Since bus drivers don’t check receipts, it is tempting to hop on board and ride for free. But that could turn out to be one expensive ride. Anyone caught without one of those receipts could face a $100 fine. And the MTA refused to say how many, but emphasized that bus inspectors are still riding the Select buses, searching for scofflaws.
Still, the MTA said fare evasion is receding. Fines have dropped by more than a third from their peak in June 2011, when the MTA issued 1067 summonses for fare evasion.
Bus drivers who notice riders flashing Metro Cards their way will often tell riders to get off the bus. That’s what happened to Mona and Osama Salih when they boarded an M15 bus last week without the required proof of payment receipt. Both showed the driver their Metro cards, thinking that’s all they had to do.
“The bus driver said you have to pay off the bus and then he left,” said Mona. She could not believe he didn’t wait. “Why has a Metro card if you have to have a receipt,” added Osama.
When riders don’t know the drill, some bus drivers will leave them behind. But not always.
“There’s a lot of tourists,” said bus driver Al Thomas. He said he will almost always explain how they are supposed to pay, but will only wait for them to pay if he is not holding up all the other passengers. “Depending on the light, because if you wait for everybody, it defeats the purpose.”
The Salih’s boarded a second Select Bus minutes after the first one had left. And this time, they carried their crumpled receipts in their hands, just in case.
More than a dozen City Council members sported hoodies at City Hall Wednesday, to show solidarity with the unarmed sweatshirt-clad Florida teen who was gunned down at the hands of a neighborhood watch captain.
Brooklyn firefighter Robert Wiedmann is finally home after being badly injured in a Crown Heights blaze three months ago.
The team’s owners reached a deal Monday with the trustee responsible for recovering money for victims of the Ponzi scheme run by imprisoned financier Bernie Madoff. But it may take a bit more than a court settlement to break the Mets slump.
Owners of the New York Mets have eked out a settlement with the trustee responsible for recovering money for victims of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Under the deal, the Mets will pay a $162 million settlement.
For 35 pet travelers, 2011 was the year they met their maker.
For 35 pet travelers, 2011 was the end of the line.
More than half of the deceased, 19 pets, flew Delta airlines. All of the deaths happened in the cargo holds of the planes, government documents show.
The pets ranged from dogs and cats to a chinchilla. It boarded a Delta flight at New York’s JFK Airport last June for the second leg of its journey from St. Louis to Moscow, Russia. The airline notes that the flight was delayed 44 minutes in St. Louis before departure for New York.
Still, the pet chinchilla appeared fine to the Delta crew at JFK, according to a Live Animal Incident Report. Without warning, the chinchilla arrived in Moscow deceased. The airline was forced to ship the pet, without its owner, back to New York, because Russian authorities refused to allow the dead animal into the country.
Other airlines also noted pet deaths last year; five animals died on American Airlines, three on Continental and two perished on United. The pet injury and death figures are drawn from the January-December 2011 Airline Reports to USDOT of Incidents Involving the Loss, Injury or Death of Animals During Air Transportation. The lost and deceased pet tallies are included in the U.S. DOT's Air Travel Consumer Report. The 2011 figures are lower than in 2010, when 39 animals died. Delta again recorded the most pet deaths, with 16; Continental had six. Far fewer pets perished in 2009 - about 23 total. Nine animals died on American Airlines that year.
Delta’s record for pet deaths this January was no better than its record in January of 2011 – it again recorded one pet death for the month. American Airlines also recorded one death for January. Monthly 2012 reports can be found here.
The most recent death involved T Bone, a 1 year old Yorkshire Terrier traveling from Frankfurt, Germany to Nashville via Atlanta on January 13, 2012. In the Incident Report, Delta notes that there were no indications of a problem with the cargo hold being too hot or too cold. Yet the necropsy indicated the tiny Terrier died from hypoxia, “perhaps associated with seizures, hypoglycemia, or hyperthermia.”
Other Delta victims include Coco, a 9-month old English Bull Dog who traveled from Stuttgart, Germany to Philadelphia via Atlanta. The puppy was found unresponsive when unloaded in Atlanta, “less than 10 minutes after the aircraft had parked,” according the Delta’s Live Animal Incident Report.
Cats also died on Delta. Phoebe, an 11-year-old short hair, was traveling with her companion kitty Newman, from Pittsburgh to Phoenix through Atlanta. The flight was just ten minutes behind schedule, and the airline reported temperatures in the 60s. But when the flight landed in Atlanta, the ramp crew noticed Phoebe was unresponsive, lying in the back of her crate. She had passed away. Newman had to do the final leg of the journey without his buddy. A necropsy revealed that Phoebe died of chronic heart failure.
Some of the incidents over the years involved older pets, or dogs that are susceptible to breathing problems, like Bull Dogs. But others involved younger, less at-risk animals. Like Katie, a 6 year old yellow Labrador Retriever whose last trip was from Pensacola to Atlanta last July. Her final destination was supposed to be Baltimore.
Katie boarded her first flight with no issues. Scattered clouds flecked the Pensacola sky. Temperatures were moderate to warm, about 75 to 80 degrees. The ground crew reported that Katie made it to Atlanta without incident. Delta personnel then transported the middle aged Lab via temperature controlled van to await the next leg of her journey to Baltimore. Katie boarded her second flight. It was scheduled to leave at 1:50 pm. But apparently the plane was delayed; the Captain and ground crew “were informed the delay would only be brief,” according to the Incident Report.
But two hours later, the flight still waited in the sweltering Atlanta summer heat for take-off clearance. At 5:33 pm, the crew got the go-ahead for departure. Yet somehow, the report stated, the flight was still on the ground at 7:46 pm, delayed an additional two hours.
Around that time, the crew finally got instructions to return the plane to the gate. When ground handlers opened the cargo bin door, there was Katie, non-responsive inside her kennel. Katie’s necropsy report is still pending according to the report, even though her death happened almost 8 months ago.
After Katie died, Delta apparently took action. The airline stated in the report that it will try to ensure the crew is notified if there’s a pet in the cargo section of the plane when flights are delayed. “As a result of the animal’s death, our Load Center will pull another Load Manifest in order to determine if an animal exists on a delayed aircraft,” stated the Delta report.
Some of the Animal Incident Reports indicate pets injured themselves during flights, desperate to break free of their crates. Rides in cargo holds can be grueling, with extreme temperature swings.
In March 2011, a Chihuahua traveling Delta Airlines between Atlanta and Buffalo lost three lower incisor crown teeth chewing the handle and front corner of its crate. Last January a Golden Retriever reportedly chewed and then tried to swallow the zip ties that secured its kennel door during a flight. The ties ended up lodged in its throat – a vet anesthetized the dog and managed to remove the obstruction. Both dogs survived their ordeals.
The airline Incident Reports are required since passage of a federal law, the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act.
A necropsy isn’t always in the mix. In Coco’s case, the puppy, one was performed. It found that Coco, due to stress, “regurgitated food consumed prior to transportation which aspirated into the trachea and lungs,” stated the report. Essentially, the puppy choked. The vet also noticed “indications of a preexisting respiratory infection which was still inflamed,” according to the report.
TN reached out to Delta Airlines, sending emails and making several calls, but there's been no response as yet. Airlines can make substantial ancillary revenue in part from pet transportation fees. According to recent figures, TN reported that Delta earned the most revenue of any reporting airline from ancillary sources like pet transport fees, in the third quarter of 2011. To see the additional Miscellaneous Operating Revenue data, go to BTS Schedule P-1.2.
Mass transit users are one step closer to getting a pre-tax transit benefit restored.
After a few months of reduced tax credits for all the money they spend getting to and from work, commuters may finally be getting a break. The U-S Senate is expected restore commuter transit benefit worth more than $2,000 annually when it votes on the Transportation bill this week.
Until this year, subway, bus and train riders were able to deduct up to $230-dollars from their pre-tax paychecks to pay their monthly transit bill. The tax credit was administered through an employer benefit program. But that benefit cap dropped to $125-dollars as of January 1st after Congress let it lapse after year-end gridlock.
The Senate tried to restore the benefit last month [February] as part of a payroll tax bill, but all amendments in that bill were dropped as part of a deal to get bipartisan support for it from both parties.
Now Senate leaders have embedded the tax credit directly into the Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill – it is not an amendment.
The legislation would extend the commuter tax credit through the end of this year. It would also increase the credit by $10, to $240. That would give it parity with the existing tax benefit that drivers get each month to offset expenses. Commuter advocates complained that the lower $125-dollar cap was actually a tax increase on commuters, especially in areas with relative high transit costs for commuting, like suburban New York, New Jersey, Washington, and San Francisco.
In New York, the minimum monthly pass for all three of the region’s commuter rail systems costs more than the lower, $125-dollars benefit.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) expects the transportation bill will move forward. “It’s our hope to have this passed by Wednesday at the latest, and now we’re putting a full court press on our colleagues in the House to pass this crucial legislation as well,” he said. Many New York area House Republicans broke with their party over the last version of the Highway bill, because it excluded dedicated funding for public transit. After several unsuccessful tries to pass its own bill, the House, led by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), is now expected take up the Senate bill, instead of crafting a version of its own.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would lobby House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who is visiting New York City. Bloomberg said he wants some help getting a tax credit for commuters. “You know the highway bill helps you if you drive but it doesn't help mass transit and we're very dependent on that,” said Bloomberg.