(New York, NY - WNYC) Long Island Railroad riders might not see service to Grand Central Terminal on the East Side of Manhattan until 2019, a year later than expected.
Joe Lhota, chairman of the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority, told business leaders on Long Island that the tunnel project has bogged down beneath a railyard in Sunnyside, Queens, where contaminated soil and an unexpected abundance of underground brooks and springs have slowed digging. He said the authority has brought in tunneling experts from Europe to help solve the problems.
The project, called East Side Access, will bring Long Island Railroad trains beneath the East River to Grand Central Terminal. Now, all LIRR trains go to Penn Station, on Manhattan's West Side.
Lhota called East Side Access the first major expansion of the LIRR in 100 years. He said that, on completion, it would shave about 40 minutes off commuting time for Long Islanders who work on the East Side of Manhattan and would increase capacity of the railroad by 41 percent.
“There are 800,000 people per day that go through Penn Station,” Lhota said, according to Long Island Business News. “And 60 percent of those are Long Island Rail Road riders. East Side Access should relieve a lot of that burden.”
The project, which was originally scheduled for completion in 2015, has been delayed several times. (The NY MTA's website still lists an obsolete end date of 2016.)
NY MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg later walked back Lhota's remarks. He said, "Chairman Joe Lhota did say this morning that a very preliminary study that he saw has a risk of the deadline going into 2019. We’re in the process of re-evaluating the deadline on East Side Access and will report to the board on it at the end of May."
Lisberg said NY MTA engineers are looking at "several different types of studies" to determine whether to stick with or push back the current 2018 deadline. "It’s complex tech stuff and the experts don’t always agree," he said.
The NY MTA has said previous delays were caused in part by conflicts with Amtrak, which is also working on construction projects at the Sunnyside Railyards in Queens, slowing digging for East Side Access. Lisberg said those problems have been solved. "In January, at one of our meetings, there was discussion of problems with scheduling work in coordination with Amtrak," he said." Now we’re very well coordinated."
And now comes this statement from the MTA press office:
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is reevaluating the risks in the construction schedule for the East Side Access project, and plans to present its findings to the Capital Program Oversight Committee later this month. One preliminary analysis of risk factors has indicated the completion date may move to 2019, as East Side Access construction intensifies in the busiest passenger rail yard and the largest passenger rail interchange in the nation.
The analysis is not complete, and the MTA is identifying ways to mitigate those risk factors to allow the project to be completed as early as possible. The MTA continues to work with its partners at the Federal Transit Administration to update the East Side Access funding agreement to reflect the new schedule.
Amtrak and the MTA are working closely together on East Side Access and improvements to the East River tunnels and the Harold Interlocking to accommodate the roughly 500,000 passengers who rely on 1,200 train movements through the region each day. Senior executives at Amtrak, the MTA and NJ Transit regularly meet to coordinate construction activities and do everything possible to keep work moving forward.
(New York, NY - WNYC) The New York City Department of Transportation continues to show community boards in Brooklyn and Manhattan where it's planning to install Bike Share stations in those boroughs.
NOTE: WE'VE TURNED THIS INTO AN INTERACTIVE MAP, VIEW IT HERE.
NYC DOT has promised to post a map of the entire system online once it's done. But the department is sticking by its refusal to release the draft maps, though it's supposed to have the actual program up in running by mid-July, a mere 10 weeks from now.
There is a way to glimpse what the city has in mind, and that's to go to a community board meeting and sit through the department's presentation of bike share locations. Hence our presence, with cell phone camera, at Thursday night's meeting of Community Board 1's Planning and Infrastructure Committee.
We photographed five slides, like the one above, that show where the bike share docks would go around Lower Manhattan. By our count, CB 1 will hold 42 of them.
The locations were whittled down through a series of meetings with department staff and community board members. Kate Fillin-Yeh, director of New York City Bikeshare, said any proposed location that had been red-flagged in a previous meeting did not make the cut.
Of the 42 that remain, twelve would require the removal of parking spaces--"three or four" per location, according to Fillin-Yeh. The stations would also be installed on street sites not used for parking, sidewalks, parks and plazas, and private property.
She said the department tried to spread the the bike docks evenly throughout Lower Manhattan, and place them near subway stations, large institutions like New York Law School, and tourist sites like south Street Seaport and the boat to the Statue of Liberty.
Board members reacted positively to the plan, with some praising the DOT for the way it has run its consultation with the community. The plan will be presented to the full board in the coming weeks.
(New York, NY - WNYC) In the Q & A after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the members of a new state Infrastructure Bank Board, he talked today about how the state might pay to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge after the federal government did not grant a $2 billion loan application.
(Ray LaHood wrote about the projects that did get the funding here.)
The proposed $5.2 billion project is a high priority for Cuomo. It would build two spans to replace an aging, overcrowded bridge across the Hudson River in New York City's northern suburbs.
Environmental and transportation groups have criticized the replacement bridge's design because it makes no provision for transit. Some opponents have suggested Cuomo's vehicles-only approach contributed to the project's failure to win federal transportation funding.
But Cuomo downplayed the decision by the Obama administration not to grant a loan on April 26. Cuomo said he's considering public-private partnerships that could leverage private financing, but he has no proposal at this time.
Here's an excerpt of the Q & A:
Q: Was it disappointing to not get the federal transportation loan for the Tappan Zee Bridge? Also, any progress on the next steps in terms of funding?
Cuomo: I believe the federal transportation funds will be reauthorized and I believe we will be competitive. Howard, anything new on the Tappan Zee financing?
Director of State Operations Howard Glaser: We’re doing many things simultaneously: the environmental review, the financial plans, working out labor agreements. So you’ll continue to see that work being done over the next few months.
Q: Do you need public-private partnership legislation to fund the bridge?
Cuomo: We’re talking about public-private partnership legislation. We don’t have an immediate proposal on that.
[Cuomo then talked about the various political obstacles to the project, and the need to overcome them to show that the state can still think and build big.]
[We're battling] inertia and institutional opposition—just bureaucratic opposition: opposition of the system, opposition to change, opposition to risk, which is very real and one of the main challenges you’re going to face.
The Tappan Zee Bridge is a project that has been talked about for decades, literally. The Tappan Zee Bridge--and there’s a project called the Peace Bridge in Buffalo--are large scale public works projects that have been talked about for decades but have somehow defied progress, let alone completion. That is one of those cultural enemies, I think, to progress. This sense that big projects are just too difficult to tackle.
Building a bridge: it’s controversial, it’s complex, there’s going to be opposition and [the idea that] if there’s opposition, we should stop. We’re trying to do the exact opposite with the Tappan Zee. We’re trying to say, ‘When there is a pressing need, government should be able to respond quickly, expeditiously, efficiently. Hear everyone, fair process, due process…but then get it done. Get it done.’
Government was about functioning [during the tenure of former NY State Governor] Al Smith. Government was about functioning and performing, competently, quickly. So the Tappan Zee Bridge, which we’ll be involved in, is a project that we identified early on, that is not just going to be about repairing that bridge. But it’s going to be about making the statement that government can work and society can work and we can still do big things. We’re that good. So keeping the Tappan Zee on time and moving along is very important to us.
Q: The biggest roadblock seems to be how to pay for it.
Cuomo: We’re working through a number of financing options and we’ll present a number of options for discussion and we’ll pick the best one.
Q: Will you be passing legislation during this session to allow you to raise public-private money for the Tappan Zee Bridge? Would it have to go through legislation?
Cuomo: It would not have to go through legislation. No.
(New York, NY - WNYC) Seven people died Sunday when an SUV hit a curb on a stretch of the Bronx River Parkway and vaulted over a guardrail into a ravine on land owned by The Bronx Zoo. Several cars have had similar crashes there in recent years. Now state transportation officials are taking steps to make the road safer.
They're installing a line of concrete barriers that are 2 feet eight-inches tall between the right lane of traffic and the curb. The idea is that if an SUV hits the center divider and swerves sharply right across three lanes, as happened Sunday, it's supposed to hit the barrier and stay on the road rather than hitting the curb and getting propelled over the guardrail.
But another issue is how fast drivers take that stretch of road. The SUV was speeding through the 50 mile per hour zone at 68 miles per hour. New York State DOT spokesman William Reynolds said the speed limit will drop to 35 miles per hour during construction and may remain lower than 50 mph when the project is done--which he expects will be by the end of next week. He didn't know how much the improvements would cost the state DOT.
He also said police will be strictly enforcing the new lower speed limit around the raised parts of the parkway. "We believe the corridor is safe as long as you travel at the appropriate speed," he said.
TOP STORIES ON TN:
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that where a federal program has added bike lanes, biking is up 50%. (link)
Occupy shuts down Golden Gate Ferry. (link)
The Metro Dulles rail project known as the Silver Line may be in jeopardy over a labor pay dispute. (link)
In Florida, an aging population struggles to get around. (link)
Bus Rapid Transit gets an international rating system. (link)
Chicago residents get a look at 2020 bike network. (link)
House Republicans are demanding a long-term federal highway funding bill be funded in part with oil royalty money from opening up parts of Alaska and perhaps offshore areas to drilling. (Wall Street Journal)
A Society of Engineers report says drivers' failure to use turn signals is an "epidemic" that causes almost a million crashes per year. (Autoblog)
A San Francisco transit worker was fired on his 66th birthday for giving a needy teenager free BART tickets to get to school. (San Francisco Chronicle)
You'd think The Sierra Club of Georgia would join transit advocates in supporting a referendum on imposing a 1 percent sales tax for regional transpo projects. Think again. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
The Silver Spring transit hub in Maryland would serve 100,000 people a day and bring together buses, Metro rail and MARC trains. But it is snakebit: delayed seven times, its cost has now jumped by another $11 million. (The Washington Post)
Did last year's Carmaggedon in L.A. cause local heteros to stay home, crank up the Barry White and make babies? Some couples say, "yes." (babble)
In a new book, investigative journalist Steve Coll calls ExxonMobil a "private empire." (Marketplace)
(New York, NY - WNYC) Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Junior is calling for a thorough safety inspection of the overpass on the stretch of the Bronx River Parkway in NYC where a crash killed seven on Sunday.
Three generations of the same family, including three kids, were killed on Sunday when an SUV leapt a guardrail on the Parkway and plunged into a ravine in the Bronx Zoo below.
Several accidents have occurred on that stretch of parkway, including one last summer in which two were injured, and another fatal crash in 2006.
Diaz wants the investigation to include the parkway’s guardrails. He also stressed that the road surface should be better maintained.
"Why is it if the rest if the parkway is always smooth, in the elevated portions there's always potholes," he asked. "There are joiners in the elevated section and it's always a problem to get over them, there's always something wrong with the roadway."
A spokesman for the American Automobile Association's New York City affiliate also expressed concerns about a number of issues on the parkway, such as narrow lanes, steep hills, tight turns, no breakdown lane and inadequate guardrais.
AAA’s Robert Sinclair said the Bronx River Parkway was opened in 1925 and lacks modern engineering features.
William P. Reynolds, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Transportation, said an investigation is ongoing. "We are working closely with all agencies involved to determine the cause of this tragic accident," he said.
The NYPD said at a briefing Monday that Maria Gonzalez was driving at 68 m.p.h.when she bumped the concrete highway divider and damaged a tire. Police say she was likely going with the flow of traffic, which is often faster than the posted 50 miles per hour speed limit.
The city medical examiner said all seven passengers died of blunt force trauma to the head. The deaths have been ruled accidental. Toxicology reports won't be ready for several weeks.
Diaz said Juan Gonzalez, husband of the woman who was driving the SUV and father of one of the girls in the vehicle was, “devastated.”
"He's distraught." Diaz said of Gonzalez. "In the Bronx and as New Yorkers, we are crying and mourning for this family. Three generations is really tough to lose and we should make sure that this never happens again."
Relatives said they're wracked with grief and shock. A wake is planned for Thursday.
With the Associated Press
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Junior is calling for a thorough safety inspection of the overpass on a stretch of the Bronx River Parkway where a crash killed seven on Sunday.
MTA chairman Joe Lhota told planners at a Midtown conference on Friday that the first project on his "wish list" is extending 7 train down 11th Ave to 23rd St.
(New York, NY - WNYC) NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Joe Lhota told planners at a Midtown conference that the first project on his "wish list" is extending the Number 7 subway train down 11th Avenue to 23rd Street.
"It's something that I think would make sense because if you look at the demographics of the West Side, we shouldn't just make one stop," he told reporters after taking part in a workshop at the Regional Plan Association's annual assembly, which was held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
Lhota said, "It's important to have plans, to have a wish list." But he cautioned there was no active push to send the 7 train from Times Square past its planned terminus at W 34th Street. "I'm not sure it can be done," he said. "I'm not sure about how close you can get to the Hudson River."
The $2.1 billion extension is scheduled to be done by December 2013 at a cost of $2.1 billion. It's being built in conjunction with a massive development of the Hudson Yards immediately to the south.
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also been thinking about boosting the capacity of New York's transportation system.
Appearing Friday as a guest on WOR Radio's John Gambling Show, he said "it'd be great" to offer free transfers to the city's private ferries with a Metrocard. "It's all one big thing in these days of technology," the mayor said. "You could use one card and then revenue could be divided up" between the ferry operators and the NY MTA.
Lhota liked the idea of allowing ferry passengers to pay by Metrocard, noting that several non-NY MTA transit operators in the region already do that, from the PATH Train to New Jersey and a newly privatized bus system on Long Island. But he wasn't keen on the idea of making the transfer free and sharing fares. "The NY MTA is in no position to share its revenue with the ferries," he said.
The NY MTA is perennially cash-strapped and only recently received funding from the state for the last three years of a five-year capital plan.
(New York, NY -WNYC) UPDATED Question: Which of these names does not belong with the others? Dante, Ovid, Michael Bloomberg, William Butler Yeats?
Answer: Trick question. Each of those poets will have their work displayed on a large Times Square video screen Thursday as part of Poem in Your Pocket Day.
Before the the Mayor's Office released poet Bloomberg's verse, we imagined some. (Actual poem at end of post.)
For example, this Bloombergian haiku:
New York needs further
remaking. On that, I’m firm.
Therefore, my third term.
New York has celebrated Poem in Your Pocket Day since 1992. But this appears to be the first year that the mayor's metric prosody will be beamed onto MTV's video screen at 44th Street and Broadway, beginning at 10 a.m.
The Poetry Society of America, which is sponsoring the event, said in a statement that the mayor's "original poem" will share time with "the five winning poetweets of the Mayor’s Office 'Poetweet' contest; images from the MTA Arts for Transit and Poetry Society of America’s newest Poetry in Motion initiative; and poems by famous authors."
Set aside, if you will, the syllabic abomination that is the word "Poetweet" to consider the possibility that Dylan Thomas' defiant line, "Rage, rage against the dying of the light," could be followed by a scrap of mayoral doggerel about the salutary effects of quitting smoking. Perhaps:
I have promises to keep
And besides, a pack of Marlboros isn't cheap.
SUGGESTION: Compose your own fake example of a poem by Mayor Bloomberg and leave it in the comments section below, or "Poetweet" it at us at @TransportNation.
50.5 Million Can’t Be Wrong
By Mike Bloomberg
Hey there, fella! Lady, hey!
Didja hear? It’s “Poem in Your Pocket Day!”
Tenth anniversary – the bubbly’s flowing
People are cheering… yelling… Tebowing
Where best to celebrate this whole affair?
The Crossroads of the World – Times Square
Historic site of many a saga
And on New Year’s Eve… one Gaga
From across the globe, they visit here
50.5 million last year
Wanting to see all they’ve anticipated
Just follow directions – it’s not complicated
Bronx Zoo? (Take the or the )
Rockefeller Center? (Walk 6 blocks, then enter)
Empire State? (Bus to Fifth, then go straight)
Ferry to Staten? (At the tip of Manhattan)
Unisphere in Queens? (Get there via several means)
NY Aquarium? (Too far for kids to walk. Just carry ‘em)
“Mamma Mia”? (Right behind you. See ya.)
So on this big birthday of PIYP
Have a fantastic day in NYC
Take in the town – there is so much here to do!
(Just have a Poem in Your Pocket when you do)
Thursday is "Poem in Your Pocket Day." A number of famous verse can be found in Times Square, which will also mark the debut of poetry by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
(New York, NY - WNYC) The Transport Workers Union Local 100 is criticizing the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority's decision to take $50 million from New York University to clear out of 370 Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn and make way for a new school of applied science. Union president John Samuelson said the authority should instead renovate the largely empty building and move its offices there from 2 Broadway in Manhattan.
Samuelson spoke during the public comments session of the NY MTA's monthly board meeting. He said the authority could save the $63 million a year it pays in rent to the owners of 2 Broadway, a building the authority renovated ten years ago in a massive boondoggle, by moving its offices into the largely empty Brooklyn building it owns.
"Tens of millions of dollars in rider-generated funds are going to the owners of 2 Broadway every year, which is truly money thrown away," Samuelson said.
He suggested that money spent on rent could be applied to reverse the $53 million a year in service cuts enacted by the NY MTA in 2010 as a cost-saving measure.
The 14-story building at 370 Jay Street has sat largely empty since the New York City Transit Authority moved its offices into Manhattan. Since then, the NY MTA has been paying the city a dollar a year to hold onto the property because its 14th floor holds telecommunications equipment the authority needs to run the subway. The NY MTA will use some of the money it gets from the NYU deal to move that equipment into the Jay Street-Metrotech subway station below the building.
An NY MTA spokesman dismissed Samuelson's criticisms, saying 370 Jay Street wouldn't provide enough office space and would cost $186 million to fix up and move into. "Shifting folks from 2 Broadway to 370 Jay Street would not be an economic benefit," he said.
The Transport Workers Union is criticizing the MTA's decision to take $50 million from NYU to clear out of 370 Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn and make way for a new school of applied science. Union President John Samuelson said the authority should instead renovate the largely empty building and move its offices there from 2 Broadway in Manhattan.
Six months after the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey raised prices at its six bridges and tunnels, the numbers are in: about a half million fewer drivers per month are using them. That's a 5 percent decrease overall.
(New York, NY - WNYC) Six months after the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey raised prices at its six bridges and tunnels, the numbers are in: about a half million fewer drivers per month are using them. That's a 5 percent decrease.
The drop in vehicle usage is to be expected, especially given that four months after prices went up at the crossings, tolls jumped by 50 percent on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. Those are feeder roads to the Port Authority crossings, which laid a double toll hike whammy on drivers making a typical trip to Manhattan or Staten Island.
Traffic has fluctuated in the past six months but has remained consistently down. In the 16 months before the toll hikes, the number of vehicles using authority crossings ranged from 10 million to 11 million--excluding three months of extreme weather during late 201o and early 2011. Then came September, when the authority raised peak-time E-ZPass tolls to $9.50 from $8. (After scheduled increases through 2015, that toll will be $12.50.) Since then, usage of the crossings has ranged from 9 to 10 million vehicles per month.
The hikes remain contentious. A February audit of the authority, conducted as a condition of support for the toll hikes by New Jersey Governor Christie and New York Governor Cuomo, found a $4 billion cost over-run at the World Trade Center and an average salary for authority employees of $143,000 per year. Both governors used the audit as an occasion to blast the authority for wasteful spending.
New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg held a Congressional hearing on Wednesday to grill Bill Baroni, Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, about the fairness of the hikes. The hearing devolved into political theater as Baroni, a Christie appointee, told Lautenberg he was unfit to investigate the impact of the toll hikes because the senator had for five years used the bridges and tunnels for free, a perk of his position as a Port Authority commissioner.
The Staten Island Ferry is free to passengers, but engine problems with three of the fleet’s seven boats are costing the city millions. And that’s causing a showdown between the city Department of Transportation and Comptroller John Liu.
(New York, NY - WNYC) The Staten Island Ferry is free to passengers, but engine problems with three of the fleet's seven boats are costing the city millions. And that's causing a showdown between the city Department of Transportation and NYC Comptroller John Liu.
DOT says the ferry's three largest boats, which cost $139 million, have had problems with their propulsion systems since they went into service in 2005 and 2006. The department says the original contractor, the Wisonsin-based Manitowoc Marine Corporation, has failed repeatedly to fix them. So the department has asked Liu to approve an emergency contract of $9.5 million to hire Siemens to do the job.
DOT Spokesman Scott Gastel said in a statement to TN that, “This vendor will be a one stop shop for an integrated propulsion system on all three boats, an upgrade that will benefit over 65,000 passengers who rely on the Ferry each day. We clearly explained to the Comptroller why the new Siemens products are needed.”
Liu is not pleased. He said, "It's appalling that the highly-touted new ferry boats are still saddled with defects and more troubling that the DOT has no clear solution for resolving these longstanding problems.”
The comptroller is only approving $3.2 million for repair work on one of the ferries, which is in dry dock in Virginia. He says if that goes well, he might approve more. In the meantime, ferry riders must make do with boats have trouble getting up to speed.
(New York, NY - WNYC) The sinking of the Titanic on April 15 in 1912 was the biggest news story of its day. But people on land had only the barest facts about the tragedy at sea until almost three days later, when more than 700 survivors reached New York on the steamer Carpathia. What followed was an unprecedented media frenzy.
The Carpathia had wireless communication with the shore but on its way to New York had sent only a trickle of news. After a couple of days, it was known that most of the passengers and crew on the Titanic had died — but not much beyond that.
A theory for the near-news blackout is that the White Star Line, which owned the Titanic, was trying to manage the story by shutting out the media.
For example, newspaperman Carlos Hurd, who worked for a Hearst paper in St. Louis, happened to be on the Carpathia. Hearst editors in New York sent frantic messages to him begging for news but the ship's crew intercepted them.
That left the public was frothing for details of the disaster. By the time the Carpathia arrived in the New York harbor on April 18 around 9:15 P.M., thousands of people were standing outside Pier 54 at West 13th Street on the Hudson River.
Many were family members of passengers who didn't know if their relatives were dead or alive. Reporters waded in and worked the crowd, interviewing relatives while waiting to catch survivors coming off the ship and record their memories while they were still visceral.
Meanwhile, out in the harbor, more than 50 tugboats jammed with journalists met the Carpathia in lower New York harbor. Reporters with megaphones yelled up at the ship, offering $50 or $100 for eyewitness accounts. Photographers' cameras lit up the side of the ship with flashes of magnesium powder.
This was before the rise of radio and movie reels, when newspapers ruled. It was also a Darwinian moment in the history of American journalism.
Mitchell Stephens, professor of journalism at NYU and author of The History of the News, says there were dozens of papers in multiple languages coming out three times a day in New York, with 'Extra' editions. "It was cutthroat competition between these newspapers for stories and to be first on the streets with stories,” he said. “So the streets were full of newspapers being hawked all day long."
Stephens added that the U.S. also had the highest per capita newspaper circulation in the world in the early 20th century. The fight was on to feed that audience. "Races for news were nothing new and packs of journalists were already starting to develop," he said.
Two of the heavyweights in the city were William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal and the up-and-coming New York Times.
Carr Van Anda was the editor of The Times in 1912. He rented out the top floor of the Strand Hotel, now called the Liberty Inn, and set up a temporary newsroom to better cover the disaster. The hotel was just a block from Pier 54. Then Van Anda set his sites on interviewing the Titanic’s 22-year-old wireless operator, Harold Bride. He even paid Bride’s employer, Guglielmo Marconi, who was the inventor of the wireless, to make sure he got an exclusive interview.
Marconi sent a message to Bride on the Carpathia that read, “Stop. Say nothing. Hold your story for dollars in four figures.”
When Harold Bride got to New York, a Times reporter met him onboard and took down his istory. He then reported what he'd heard: that the band played on while the ship went down and that a stoker had broken into the wireless room and tried to steal Bride's lifejacket as the Titanic was sinking, forcing the operator to beat the stoker senseless.
As for Hearst man Carlos Hurd, he spent his trip on the Carpathia interviewing Titanic survivors and hiding his notes from the crew.
He wrote up his stories and put them in a cigar box rigged with Champagne corks as floats. When the ship reached the harbor, Hurd spotted a Hearst editor in a tugboat and hurled the cigar box into the water. The editor fished it out and rushed it back to the newsroom in Lower Manhttan. Before the Carpathia had docked, an 'Extra' edition of The New York World was on the street with the banner headline:
"Titanic Boilers Blew Up, Breaking Her In Two After Striking Berg."
Not quite as fast as the Internet, but fast. And accurate. And heartbreaking.
The sinking of the Titanic on April 15 in 1912 was the biggest news story of its day. But people on land had only the barest facts about the tragedy at sea until almost three days later, when more than 700 survivors reached New York on the steamer Carpathia. What followed was an unprecedented media frenzy.
The Yankees hold their first home game in the Bronx on Friday afternoon, but the company that owns their stadium's parking garages may be on its last legs.
The Bronx Parking Development Corporation is struggling to make payments on the $237 million in tax exempt bonds used to build the garages, placing the company in danger of default
As TN reported, the eleven garages were a little more than one-third full on game days last year. On days without a game, an average of 70 people paid to park there, leaving nearly 9,000 spaces empty. Each space costs $35 or $48 for valet parking. Smaller garages in the neighborhood charge much less.
Late last month, the corporation said it needed to raid its cash reserves to make its latest payment on its bond obligations. In a letter to bond holders, the corporation said that if it didn't do that, it would immediately default. The same crisis occurred before the last bi-annual payment came due, in November.
The parking company, which was set up with the backing of the Bloomberg administration because the Yankees wanted more parking spaces, also owes $25 million to the city in rent and property taxes.
In an audit last month, New York City Comptroller John Liu blasted the city Industrial Development Agency for recommending in 2006 that the bonds be issued to finance the new garages. "NYIDA did not independently analyze the financial position and cash flow of the proposed parking operation or the parking needs of the community to determine if there would be a demand for increased parking, at higher prices, in the Yankee Stadium vicinity," the report said.
Critics like Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York agreed with Liu's assessment. "This project was forced through despite the screaming concerns of local residents, transportation experts and good government advocates," she said.
The agency replied in a written statement that it relied on the recommendation of "a nationally recognized expert" in giving a thumbs up to the deal, and then helping to arrange for its tax exempt financing.
Agency spokesman Kyle Sklerov also stressed in an email to WNYC that the city would not lose money if the Bronx Parking Development Corporation defaulted on its debt. “The bonds are not a general obligation of the City or the IDA in any way, shape or form," he said.
Damiani said that may be true, but the garages going bust would mean a big hit to the reputation of the agency. "What does it mean for future projects in this city when a development as prominent as the one associated with Yankee Stadium goes into default?" she asked.
Sklerov disagreed. He said, "We expect that bond investors will continue to evaluate future IDA projects on their own merits.”
The garages were also controversial because city parkland was paved to make way for some of them. That parkland was fully replaced only last week when, after five years, three new baseball diamonds on the site of the old Yankee Stadium were opened to the public.
A call to the Bronx Parking Development Corporation was not returned.