Jim O'Grady appears in the following:
Thursday, August 04, 2011
(New York, NY - WNYC) With Congress in recess and the Federal Aviation Administration's partial shutdown grinding on, it seems more likely that 74,000 affected workers won't be getting a paycheck until September. The U.S. Department of Transportation says about 4,000 FAA workers have been furloughed and 70,000 construction workers put out of work by the dispute over the FAA's funding re-authorization, now two weeks old.
Dan Stefko, president of the Eastern Region Engineers & Architects at the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, says he and his co-workers are hurting. "Anger, dismay, disappointment and worry" are the words Stefko used to describe his feeling and those of his co-workers.
"All of us have mortgages we have to pay, we all have car payments. My members have families that they have to feed. A lot of them are worried. There's fear," Stefko said.
The FAA shut down after the GOP-led Congress inserted a policy change into a routine funding authorization. Senate Democrats balked, accusing Republicans of trying to gain leverage in a larger dispute over labor law. Though the President said Wednesday he expects the dispute to be resolved by week's end, neither party has shown signs of relenting.
Meanwhile, more than 250 projects around the U.S. have been halted. LaGuardia Airport in New York has been hit particularly hard. Here's a sample of its suspended projects:
- New runway status lights to let pilots know they're on the correct runway.
- Demolition of an old traffic control tower that is blocking the sight lines of controllers in a new tower when they look down to monitor certain taxiway intersections.
- The placement of $10 million worth of security bollards around the Central Terminal building.
Beyond LaGuardia, the region's major radar control facility in Garden City, Long Island, is not getting hardware and software upgrades to give air traffic controllers better information when guiding planes into and out of New York's airspace.
The development of NextGen technology, a long-term project, has also been stalled. The program aims to replace ground-based tracking of aircraft to satellite and GPS tracking. "That will will allow more precise routes and greater efficiency and cost-savings," Sefko said. "That means shorter routes for the flying public."
At JFK Airport, a major taxiway is not getting its potholes filled and old asphalt replaced. And half-completed improvements to an air traffic controller's break room have exiled controllers, who have strict rest requirements, to a cramped office.
At Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, a $20 million rehab of two of its runways has been stopped.
Stefko said the shutdown's timing is particularly bad because summer is the prime building season. "This is the best time to make concrete progress--literally," he said.
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Monday, August 01, 2011
(New York, NY - WNYC) UPDATED Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood came to LaGuardia Airport today to put pressure on Congress to end the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, now in its 10th day.
LaHood stood with Administrator of the FAA Randy Babbitt in an American Airlines hangar with a view of the airport's old traffic control tower. A $6.3 million contract with a Brooklyn-based company to demolish the tower has been placed on hold while Congress is stalled over competing versions of a temporary extension for the agency.
The stalemate came after the Senate refused to pass a House version of the extension, which cut subsidies to several rural airports. The Democratic Senate is accusing the House of making the cut to force the Senate to change labor laws, which it says it will not do.
In an email to reporters today, Senator Jay Rockefeller's staffers say the West Virginia Democrat has come up with a version of a bill that matches Republican cuts, and say "that plan could move forward as early as today." No word from Congressional Republicans on whether they'd agree to the plan.
LaHood unleashed a blistering critique of the Congressional stalemate, which he says has caused the furlough of 4,000 FAA employees and lay-offs for 70,000 construction workers as $2.5 billion in airport projects languish around the country.
“Don’t take your vacation, Congress, until you pass an FAA bill so FAA employees can go back to work, so construction projects can continue here at LaGuardia, building the new tower,” he said.
Work has also stopped at the airport on a $10 million dollar installation of security bollards. Air traffic controllers are still on the job, but many of their support staff are not.
While the agency has been shut down, an FAA spokeswoman said today some 40 airport inspectors whose jobs are considered "critical to life and property" are being required to work, but can't be paid until the agency's funding is restored.
Construction projects at airports across the U.S. will remain suspended for the summer if Congress doesn't re-authorize the FAA before adjourning on Friday.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
The MTA said the city pay should pay it half a billion dollars for building the Second Avenue Subway since, the authority claims, the city stands to gain a big boost in tax revenues as property values go up around the subway after its planned opening in 2016.
Friday, July 29, 2011
(New York, NY - WNYC) The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority says the city should pay it half a billion dollars for building the Second Avenue Subway. It's only fair, the NY MTA reasons, when the city stands to gain a big boost in tax revenues as property values go up around the subway after its planned opening in 2016.
The proposal is one of nine different sources of funding the authority is counting on to plug a $9 billion gap in its $13.5 billion capital construction plan covering 2012-2015.
But Mayor Michael Bloomberg sounded unconvinced when asked on his weekly radio show about the NY MTA's idea for revenue-sharing. "Let me check," the mayor said sardonically. "I'll call our finance director and see if taxes came in yesterday."
Bloomberg said he preferred having the authority plug its budget gap with new revenue, like tolls on the East River Bridges. But that idea was most recently defeated by the New York State legislature in 2009. "We should find some ways to raise money for the MTA," the mayor added. "Something that would encourage people to take mass transit so there'd be more fare payers."
But NY MTA Chief Financial Officer Robert Foran said Albany "has no appetite for new dedicated taxes or fees."
As a result, the bulk of the NY MTA's strategy for funding the capital construction plan is to float new bonds worth $4.7 billion and obtain a low-interest federal loan for $2.2 billion. The plan has not pleased transit watchers.
The Citizens Budget Commission, a watchdog group, said it was "better than doing nothing to meet the essential infrastructure needs of mass transit. But it has a critical flaw – it proposes to borrow billions without presenting a corresponding plan for new revenues to match the increased long-run debt service burden."
Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign told WNYC that it's likely the borrowed money, plus interest, will be obtained down the road from the fare box. "I have sympathy for the MTA because it's not getting help from Albany or City Hall," he said. "But then it's turning to the riders and saying, 'Well, we'll see how this goes. There's a good chance your fares going to balloon down the road.'"
The NY MTA's capital construction plan will run out of money at the end of the year. Should the authority's funding plan not yield the billions expected of it, work on mega-projects like the Second Avenue Subway and a tunnel bringing Long Island Railroad trains into Grand Central Terminal could start to slow down by next year and, eventually, grind to a halt.
That doesn't even take into account the budgetary havoc to be wrought should some state lawmakers come through on their threat to eliminate the payroll mobility tax, which is expected to yield $1.2 billion for the NY MTA in 2012 alone. On Monday, Foran told a briefing for reporters on the budget that, "if we lose that tax, we have a big hole that we can't overcome."
And another thing. Balancing the NY MTA's budget also depends on saving $1.2 billion by convincing labor unions to agree to work three years in a row, beginning next year, without pay raises. John Samuelson, president of the 38,000 members of the Transport Workers Union, has said he’ll fight such a deal.
Foran said the NY MTA is doing its part by finding $2 billion in savings through cost-cutting measures like revamping an employee health plan, consolidating 34 data centers into three and eliminating 3,000 agency cell phones. He said funding must be found because the NY MTA's capital projects create 25 percent of all construction jobs in the metropolitan area, and are crucial to improving New York's subway and bus system.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
(New York, NY - WNYC) Performance on a major New York commuter rail line during last week's heat wave was a tale of the two states it serves. Outdated technology in Connecticut led to multiple train breakdowns and stranded passengers on the New Haven Line, which connects that state to Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan. One train stalled between stations when overhead power lines sagged and tangled, leaving passengers sweltering and stuck for almost an hour.
All the while, trains on New York tracks ran smoothly.
The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority says that's because New York State invested early last decade in a new overhead power system that automatically takes up the slack when wires start drooping in the heat. New York also bought new train cars that held up fairly well during the Northeast's bitter and blizzardy winter of 2010-2011.
MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said Connecticut did neither, and paid for it during both seasons.
The authority was forced to curtail service on the New Haven line by 10 percent in January when the old trains broke down faster than Connecticut's cramped work yards could repair them. But Metro-North's Harlem Line, which runs newer trains purchased by New York in 2000, didn't have those problems.
Similarly, New York invested in overhauling its overhead power system for trains in the last decade. Towers that hold up the wires now have counterweights that lower and tighten the wires when they sag. Connecticut has no such system. Last week, the NY MTA tried to prevent the overhead lines from tangling by ordering trains on its lines to slow from a normal cruising speed of 70 m.p.h. to 50 m.p.h. It worked in New York but not Connecticut.
Ms. Anders said the overhead wires provide electrical current by making contact with a four-foot wide metal bar on the top of a train. Last Friday's high temperature of 104 degrees caused the overhead wires in Connecticut to sag so much that they slipped off the side of the metal bar on some trains and tangled, cutting off power and halting those trains.
"It goes without saying that antique fleet and an antique infrastructure and power system is not going to perform well in any temperature or weather extremes, whether it's snow or heat," she said.
Connecticut has been trying to catch up. Governor Dannel Malloy agreed to spend $400 million dollars on new overhead wires and $750 million dollars on new train cars better suited to the cold weather. The new cars have started arriving but the new overhead power system won't be done until 2016.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011
(New York, NY - WNYC) Apple and Shake Shack have gotten preliminary approval to set up shop in Grand Central Terminal. The relatively upscale retailers continue the terminal's decades-long march from dingy transit crossroads to a combination of train station, ornately restored public space and glitzy retail mall.
The Apple store would occupy 2,300 square feet of a mezzanine in the Main Hall. It would not have glass walls but keep the mezzanine's open design.
The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Finance Committee approved the new tenants this afternoon. If the board votes in favor of the deal on Wednesday, Apple would sign a ten year lease starting at $800,000 dollars a year and escalating to more than a $1 million a year. The move is part of the authority's drive to wring more income from its real estate holdings.
The MTA paid $5 million dollars to buy out Metrazur, the restaurant that previously held the spot. That caused some unease with New York City Transit Riders Council member Andrew Albert.
"You could probably replace every existing tenant in Grand Central with national chains because they have the ability to pay more," he said to the MTA's Director of Real Estate, Jeff Rosen. "Is that the direction we are going?"
Rosen said the MTA was committed to keep a mix of business at the terminal. He named several stores that operated only at the terminal or oa handful of other locations, including a spice shop and florist.
Shake Shack would be in the center of the lower level Dining Concourse. Its lease would be for ten years and range from $435,000 to $567,000 a year. The restaurant is known for its long lines so the MTA has already designated an area for people to stand and wait: an up-sloping ramp near the Oyster Bar restaurant.
Further unease, of a sort, was felt by board member Pat Foye, who represents Long Island. He noted that as Grand Central Terminal gets fancier, Penn Station stays the same, which he darkly referred to as "the cheeseburger gap." Foye wanted to know why the cuisine for sale at Penn Station, which serves passengers from the Long Island Railroad, was limited to simple foods like pizza and cheeseburgers while visitors to Grand Central can nosh on fresh salmon and endive salad before ascending a marble staircase to peruse iPads and Macbooks.
Mr. Rosen said the authority was looking into whether retail could be improved at Penn Station.
Friday, July 22, 2011
(New York, NY - WNYC) NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Jay Walder has been poached by a private rail company only two years into his six-year term. His plans to improve the lot of the 11 million weekday riders who depend on the authority’s vast array of subways and buses, rail lines, bridges and tunnels will remain incomplete.
The sudden departure comes as many important developments hang in the balance--from completion of mega-projects like the Second Avenue subway to an impending contract negotiation with a major transit union.
With the exception of the Transport Workers Union, who issued a statement yesterday essentially saying "good riddance," the emerging consensus is that Walder was the right man to lead the authority through troubled times.
In a press release on Walder's move, the advocacy group Tri-State Transportation Campaign summed up the feelings of many in New York's government, business, transit and non-profit worlds: "His departure comes at an inopportune time."
The reason is twofold. In general, planners, advocates and business leaders liked the job Walder was doing--NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg called him "a first-rate leader with big ideas." But many have also been wondering how Walder was planning to pull off the feat of convincing NY Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature to plug a $9 billion hole in the authority's capital construction and maintenance program.
That particular showdown is set for the fall. Walder will either avoid it or confront it as a lame duck with an October 21 departure date. Either way, his replacement will need to get quickly up to speed. The five-year capital program runs out of money at the end of the year.
Walder gets good grades because he largely accomplished the mandate he'd received on his appointment by former Governor David Paterson: balance the NY MTA's budget, which was $800 million in the red. And he did that without the extra funding the Paterson administration had sought from bridge tolls.
Walder did it by making draconian service cuts last year, especially to bus lines in the outer boroughs, and raising fares by 7.5 percent. Fares are set go up again next year by the same percentage. While riders felt the pain of those measures, transit watchers and business leaders gave Walder generally high marks for imposing fiscal discipline.
Not everyone approved.
Walder angered Transport Workers Union Local 100 in advance of an upcoming contract negotiation when he said labor had not "played an active part" in helping the MTA face its budget crisis. About the departing transit chief, TWU 100 had this to say on Thursday:
"[Walder] leaves New York City transit in worse shape than when he arrived less than two years ago. We will urge the Governor to appoint a new Chair who will view his workers as allies not the enemy, and a person who fully grasps the magnitude of the contribution of the public transportation system to the economic vitality of New York.”
But others praised Walder for taking once unthinkable steps, like slashing the authority's administrative payroll. As Tri-State put it: "He helped restore the agency's credibility and changed the way it does business, finding billions of dollars in savings during his tenure."
Walder arrived from his previous job as managing director of London Transport with a reputation for innovation and a willingness to tackle big projects. He told WNYC during his first days on the job that, "I would love to bring some of the innovation of London to New York." In particular, he said he'd like to see countdown clocks and "a simpler fare-paying system."
Today, countdown clocks are up and running in 161 subway stations, with 18 more expected to get them by the end of the year. But simpler fare-paying--turnstiles that open with the wave of a debit card--is still in the pilot stage. The most optimistic roll-out date for a successor to the Metrocard is 2015.
Walder also introduced real-time bus tracking projects and oversaw two redesigns of the NY MTA website--riders can now check the service status of a subway, rail or bus line from a more user-friendly NY MTA homepage. And he made available much of the authority's long-secret data to software developers, who've started churning out mobile apps that do things like show commuter line schedules or help riders choose the subway car that will get them closest to their station exit.
In leaving the NY MTA for MTR, Walder will be jumping from the world's largest public transit system to a private rail company, albeit one that made a reported net profit of $937 million in 2009. As he readies his exit, we'll excerpt the musings of Benjamin Kabak, the voice of a savvy transit blog called Second Avenue Sagas:
"As the news sinks in...I can’t help but feel as though Walder is leaving before the job is done....Walder was the best and most knowledgeable MTA head during the past few decades, and his departure is clearly a blow to the MTA and those fighting for better transit in the New York City area."
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Jay Walder abruptly announced his resignation Thursday after just two years into his six-year term — and though he was considered a shrewd fiscal disciplinarian his departure comes as many important developments hang in the balance, from completion of mega-projects like the Second Avenue subway to an impending contract negotiation with a major union.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
(New York, NY - WNYC) In the summery glare of a July morning, transportation advocates drove antique cars to a wooden toll booth they'd set up on the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge. Among them, in bow tie and straw hat, was former New York City traffic commissioner Sam Schwartz. He eased his roadster to the booth, stopped and pointedly proffered a dime to pay a toll that had been abolished 100 years ago to the day.
They said eliminating the tolls has cost the city $31 billion in inflation-adjusted revenue, part of which could've been used to maintain the Williamsburg Bridge.
"Every one of those steel beams is new," Schwartz said, gesturing toward the bridge, which underwent a top-to-bottom renovation lasting more than a decade and finishing not long ago.
Those new beams on the Williamsburg Bridge replaced old ones that had become so corroded by the 1980s, the city closed the bridge down. At the same time, the Manhattan Bridge was shaky enough that trains were prevented from crossing it. On the Brooklyn Bridge, a cable snapped and killed a tourist.
It was only then that the city paid for repairs to all of the East River Bridges.
Schwartz says if bridge tolls hadn't been discontinued by Mayor William Gaynor in 1911, who thought the dime payment was too much of a burden, the city would have had enough money for bridge maintenance and major infrastructure projects like the Second Avenue subway.
East River Bridge tolls met their most recent defeat in 2009, when then Lt. Governor Richard Ravitch proposed a bailout plan for the financially strapped NY MTA that included East River bridge tolls and a tax on employers in the suburban counties surrounding New York. Ravitch argued that it makes no sense that some East River's crossings collect tolls--like the Midtown Tunnel and the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (formerly the Triborough Bridge)--while the Queensboro, Willamsburg, Brooklyn, and Manhattan Bridges do not.
But his plan met stiff opposition in the then-Democratically-controlled State Senate. Rather than bailing out the MTA, senators argued that the MTA was too wasteful to justify a bridge toll hike. In the end, the legislature rejected Ravitch's toll proposal, much as it rejected congestion-pricing a year earlier. Elected officials, like Mayor Gaynor a century before them, saw no reason to burden drivers.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has shown little predilection to support additional fees for drivers (check out his remarks against congestion pricing during the campaign) and the Republican State Senate hasn't either. The see as their constituency men like the driver of a dark blue late-model American car, who was in too much of a hurry to give his name as he waited for the light to turn and cross the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn. Through his rolled-down window, he said: "No, no, no, no. No tolls. None. None whatsoever."
He was feet away from the vintage automobiles and advocates demonstrating for a return of the tolls. But on policy, as befits the divide between drivers and transit riders, he was miles apart.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
(New York, NY - WNYC) WiFi is coming to NYC subway platforms, but not for another four years -- and there will be no connectivity in tunnels.
The subway station project was delayed for nearly three years while Transit Wireless, the company chosen to set up the system at no cost to the NY MTA, got its financing in order. The authority's board selected the company in 2007 but didn't give it a "notice to proceed" until Broadcast Australia decided to back the company in July 2010.
New York City straphangers are of two minds about the lack of WiFi and cell phone service in the subway. They see it as either a galling void or a sanctuary from modern life's near-constant connectivity.
There's something for both sides in the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority's current project to bring the internet and phone use underground. For those who want the service because it'll help emergency responders communicate and help riders use transit apps on their mobile devices--or because they absolutely MUST check their emails or headlines--they'll have it at three stations by the end of the year.
For those who don't want to hear a stranger discuss his grocery list at high volume, it'll be a full four years before the system's remaining 271 platforms are wirelessly enabled.
First to see the service will be the platforms, stairs and mezzanines of the 14th Street stations at 8th and 6th Avenues and the 23rd Street C / E station in Manhattan.
Transit Wireless will charge telecom companies for use of the wireless signal and then split the profits with the MTA. The authority says it expects to earn at least $30 million dollars over ten years from the deal.
The NY MTA also says there will be WiFi and cell phone service in a non-subway tunnel -- on its Metro-North commuter line between 97th Street and Grand Central Terminal, and in the terminal itself. The authority wouldn't give a completion date for that project.
NY MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said the main benefit would be improved safety on platforms. “We send out real-time email, text message and Twitter alerts to our customers in the event of an emergency or other service disruption,” he said. “Having cell service in our underground platforms expands the reach and usefulness of those alerts.”
Monday, July 18, 2011
(New York, NY - WNYC) Midtown traffic jams can now be eased with the touch of a button. That's what New York City officials promised as they introduced new traffic cameras, E-Z Pass readers and microwave motion sensors to 23 Manhattan intersections.
Mayor Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan unveiled the new system at the city's Traffic Control Center in Queens, where information gathered by the sensors is wirelessly transmitted. Mayor Bloomberg explained that traffic engineers can use it to spot congestion choke points and then: "They can sit there and touch buttons to turn a light green quicker, leave it on green quicker, leave it off green quicker, whatever the case may be."
The system is called Midtown in Motion. It covers about 110 square blocks, from Second to Sixth Avenues and from 42nd to 57th streets. The area is equally famous as a global business center and a grid that acts on weekdays like a glue trap for traffic. Sadik-Khan even cracked that to reach certain locations in Midtown during rush hour "you have to be born there."
Mayor Bloomberg said chronic traffic congestion costs the city's economy $13 billion a year for things like extra time needed to make deliveries.
That's a problem the Mayor previously tried to solve through congestion pricing, which was supposed to reduce the number of vehicles on the streets and ease traffic jams by assessing motorists a fee for entering parts of Manhattan during peak times. But the program failed to gain support in New York State's legislature. "Who knows whether the legislature is ever going to approve congestion pricing," Mayor Bloomberg said today, before noting that the traffic flow system that just went online could be used for congestion pricing, should its political fortunes reverse.
He said the new technology will give engineers the ability to respond quickly to "crashes, construction, special events like the UN General Assembly and times when congestion saturates the network, causing backups that block cross streets and crosswalks." Previously, traffic signals only could be set to preset signal patterns based on the time of day.
The program also involves the installation of new turn lanes at 53 intersections. Mayor Bloomberg said if Midtown in Motion is successful, the system will be spread by 2013 to the rest of New York's 12,500 signalized intersections, half of which are already digitized and integrated with the traffic management center.
The real-time traffic flow information will also be made available to motorists and to app developers for use on mobile devices. The project cost $1.6 million, with $600,000 coming from the Federal Highway Administration.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Midtown traffic jams can now be eased with the touch of a button, according to city officials who hope a battery of new traffic cameras, E-Z Pass readers and microwave motion sensors installed at 23 Manhattan intersections will help prevent congestion.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
(New York, NY - WNYC) At one time it was hoped that the $1.4 billion expansion and reconstruction of the Fulton Street Transit Center, partly damaged in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, would be done by the tenth anniversary of that day. That won't happen. But steady progress is being made on the much-delayed project, including the scheduled opening in the next two months of a new entrance and restoration of service to a closed portion of the Cortlandt Street station next to Ground Zero.
The sprawling underground complex is Lower Manhattan's primary transit crossroads. It has long been known as a good place to connect to different subway lines--if you can figure out how to do it. The center is a multi-leveled labyrinth connecting previously private subway systems not built to be compatible. A primary thrust of the project is to detangle it.
To show how that was going, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority invited a WNYC reporter to don a hard hat and take an escorted look at the busy underground construction site.
It's an organized mess.
Shadowy caverns contain patches of muck and puddles that workers wearing reflective vests splash through. Cement mixers turn lazily as heavy metal blasts from a boombox.
Parts of the complex are impressive. The new Dey Street underpass will connect the center's main entrance building, which is a block south of City Hall Park, with the World Trade Center. It's a huge tunnel that the MTA says will be lined with digital screens showing train information, ads and artwork. That's a big change from what the Fulton Street station has always been: dark, cramped and crowded.
The grandest element is a fifty-foot glass tower over the main entrance that is to be topped by an oculus--a set of prisms to deflect natural light down to some of the subway platforms. The MTA seriously considered scrapping the tower in 2008 when the project went over budget. Then along came the federal stimulus and the tower was restored.
It was weirdly pleasing to stand two stories the street level on a future subway platform and look up through the steel framework of a tapered tower and see, above the high top of a construction crane, clouds scudding against blue sky.
When the center is all done and linked up with a station for the PATH Train to New Jersey under the World Trade Center--some time in 2016--visitors will be able to walk underground from the Winter Garden on the edge of the Hudson River to the William Street subway stop, about six blocks from South Street Seaport on the East River. That's about three-quarters of a mile.
Riders will have access to eleven subway lines, same as before. But the MTA says the warren of poorly lit passageways will be more open and straightforward. There should be less crowding and more space for the 300,000 people they expect to move through the Fulton Street Transit Center every weekday. That'll be a good day for downtown Manhattan, where 85 percent of all trips are made by mass transit, many of them using the center.
The project, begun in 2004, has been notorious for delays. Michael Horodniceanu, president of capital construction for the MTA, said part of the problem was the complexity of a task like building new station space under and around the 123 year-old Corbin Building, a nine-story landmark made of brick that will be incorporated into the main entrance. Horodniceanu said the Corbin Building's foundation had to be disassembled and rebuilt without using heavy machinery.
And he said management of the project was flawed at the start. The MTA looked for a company to do every part of the enormous renovation on tight deadlines. Only one company bid and, when it got the job, soon started falling behind. Horodniceanu said when he came into his position in 2008, he broke the project up into parts, set what he called "realistic" deadlines and attracted multiple bidders.
Now the project seems on track. The MTA's part of it should be done by 2014.
To see more photos in a vivid slideshow of the project, go to WNYC.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
(New York, NY - WNYC) Grand Central Terminal's 100th birthday is eighteen months away. But The New York Transit Museum is putting the word out now that it's looking for memorabilia to mark the event.
NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokeswoman Marjorie Anders says the museum has many artifacts from New York's bus and subway systems but relatively few from Grand Central Terminal and its trains. That's because old lines like Conrail and Penn Central are either defunct or have been merged into Metro-North.
"The stuff that we're interested in displaying is from an era that's gone," she said. "It's from railroads that no longer exist."
Anders says the museum is seeking anything from a conductor's cap to a baggage cart. But it's especially interested in remnants from the middle of last century, when train travel was more elegant. In those days, Grand Central Terminal had rocking chairs in its ladies rooms and potted palms in its waiting areas. And passengers arriving on The 2oth Century Limited from Los Angeles stepped off the train onto a red carpet.
Anders says current and former workers who may have helped themselves to old railroad items will be forgiven--as long as they loan or donate them to the exhibit.
That includes Harry Kelly, who has worked at Grand Central for 38 years. In the 1970s and 80s, he updated arrival times on the terminal's sign boards using information sent to him from a dispatcher via telautograph machine. The dispatcher wrote with a pen that sent a signal through a telephone line and moved a pen across a sheet of paper in Kelly's office--like an early fax machine.
Then came computers to do that job. Kelly recalls that after that, a supervisor called him in and said, "Harry, do me a favor. Get rid of these old telautographs." Kelly tossed out about thirty of the devices before it hit him: "I'm not a big collector but this was something that I used for many, many years. So I held onto one."
Kelly will be loaning the salvaged machine to the exhibit.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Friday, July 08, 2011
A gleaming silver subway train streaked with early morning light ...
...to a puddle of apparently toxic scum on a platform at a Canal Street station. The two photos (including the top, winning entry, and nine other finalists, culled from 314 hopefuls) were sent in as part of a photo contest sponsored by New York City advocacy groups Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives.
One photo confirmed Susan Sontag's observation in On Photography that our image-saturated world puts us in "chronic voyeuristic relation" to others, like this tender young couple:
And with those who are ready to pose:
Then again, living in a city means coming across strangers having a personal moment in public. And sometimes that person is us. Should that moment involve some kind of danger underground, here's hoping your life-line is better equipped than this one:
The contest proved that to see weird or even lovely stuff on a commute, all you need do is look around. Then whip out a camera-phone, assuming there's room enough on platform or train to raise the arms and shoot.
The two winners each received a 30-day unlimited MetroCard, that they might spend more time in the phantasmagoria that is the city's transportation system.