Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
New Jersey Transit has released its hurricane plan. Even so, portions of the, slim, three-and-a-half page plan remain blacked out, including -- significantly -- information on where trains would be stored during hurricanes. Some $120 million of NJ Transit trains stored in low-lying areas during storm Sandy were flooded. Since then, the agency has been fiercely secretive, going so far as to black out the date that the hurricane plan was drawn up, citing security reasons.
But now, following litigation, portions of the plan have been released to The Record newspaper.
The plan became an issue during a months long investigation by WNYC/New Jersey Public Radio and The Record into how New Jersey came to make the disastrous decision to store its trains in the Meadows Maintenance Complex in Kearny and in yards in Hoboken. Both those areas are had been identified, prior to the storm, as storm surge areas during Category 1 hurricanes. During the investigation both news organizations requested documents under New Jersey's Open Public Records Act. Many documents were withheld, or, in the case of the hurricane plan, blacked out.
Compared to the New York MTA's hurricane plan -- filling five binders, each 3 inches thick -- the New Jersey plan is slim. And its not clear why the plan would have been blacked out under security exemptions. Among the blacked out prose: boilerplate warnings to keep customers, employees and "the citizens of New Jersey safe;" directions on stocking break rooms during storms, and instruction to workers to "remain within their assigned facility until the storm abates." The plan also advises transit personnel to move trains from "flood" prone areas to higher ground, though it is not clear how such areas were identified.
New Jersey transit's lawyers had claimed the document was redacted because disclosure "would jeopardize buildings, facilities, or persons therein."
New Jersey Transit isn't commenting.