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Hurricane Sandy

Schoolbook

More Schools Return Home Two Months After Sandy

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

By the end of the week, all but two schools displaced by storm Sandy will be back in their original locations. P.S. 288 on Coney Island welcomed back students Monday with great enthusiasm after two months making do at a host school.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Rob Astorino on Sandy Recovery and Westchester Guns

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Rob Astorino, Westchester county executive, discusses how Westchester is recovering from Sandy and how federal assistance may help. Plus, Astorino reacts to the Journal-News "gun map".

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WNYC News

NYS Commission Recommends Balloons, Buses, and More to Fight the Next Sandy

Monday, January 07, 2013

A state commission appointed by Governor Cuomo is recommending a wide variety of infrastructure improvements, from giant balloons that would inflate inside subway tunnels to more sensitive development along coastal areas, in response to Sandy.

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WNYC News

Runway Packed With Totaled Cars Raises Concerns on LI

Friday, January 04, 2013

Shortly after Sandy hit, Insurance Auto Auctions leased the two runways at Calverton Airpark, on Eastern Long Island. Tens of thousands of cars are now collecting at the airport, while they await auction.

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Transportation Nation

Christie on NJ Transit Storm Decisions: "Not A Hanging Offense"

Thursday, January 03, 2013

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

NJ Governor Christie is offering a full-throated defense of NJ Transit chief James Weinstein's decision to store rail trains in yards that flooded during Sandy -- a misstep that cost the agency $100 million.

"Well, you know, if they knew for sure it was going to flood, believe me, [executive director] Jim Weinstein would have moved the trains," Christie said, in response to a reporter's questions. "This is a guy with decades of experience in government, with extraordinary competence, who made the best decision he could make at the time. Sometimes, people make wrong decisions. It happens. It's not a hanging offense."

Speaking Tuesday at a press conference, the governor reserved most of his ire for House Republican leadership, which failed to vote on a $60 billion Sandy aid package. But when questioned about his support of Weinstein, Christie said:

A transcript follows.

Reporter: in light of the report last week that NJ Transit had been warned months ahead of time that  rail yards in Kearny would likely flood in the event of a storm like Sandy, do you still support the leadership?

Christie's full response:

"I absolutely support the leadership -- and I don't believe that that's what the report said. I mean, I think you've gilded that report up pretty well in the lead up to your question. I don't think that's what the report said. I think these guys made the best judgement they could under the circumstances. And all of you are geniuses after. Once you see that the Kearny yards flooded, you could say 'well, geez, they should have moved the trains.’ Well, you know, if they knew for sure it was going to flood, believe me, [executive director] Jim Weinstein would have moved the trains. This is a guy with decades of experience in government, with extraordinary competence, who made the best decision he could make at the time. Sometimes, people make wrong decisions. It happens. It's not a hanging offense."

The head of NJ Transit, Jim Weinstein, told a state panel last month the agency relied on past experience -- and the understanding that it had up to 20 more years to prepare for climate change -- when it came where to store its rolling stock during the storm.

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Schoolbook

Students Donate Books to Rockaways School

Thursday, January 03, 2013

As schools displaced by flooding and storm damage return to their buildings, and the holiday volunteer buzz fades, communities hard hit by Sandy still face a long recovery. One student recently undertook a book drive to help an elementary school, and he collected over 400 books.

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WNYC News

Predicting When the Next Sandy Will Hit

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Maps detailing actual and expected flooding show that Sandy’s storm surge exceeded many of the 100-year flood zones, seeping into places previously considered safe. Are the flood maps wrong or was Sandy a truly exceptional storm?

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Transportation Nation

Year in Review New York: Sandy, Buses, Tappan Zee -- and Abandoned Bikes

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 tested New York's transportation infrastructure like no other year in recent memory.

Sandy

Sandy's storm surge flooded hundred-year-old tunnels, drowned power stations, and inflicted a commuting nightmare on millions of Northeast residents for weeks. It also caused a mini-boom in bike ridership -- and elevated climate change to a hot topic in transportation planning.

New York and New Jersey were both hit hard, but each state planned --and responded --  differently. NJ Transit took heavy damage with major routes offline for weeks after parking trains in a flood plain, because, as one executive said, "we thought we had 20 years to respond to climate change." That decision cost the agency $100 million. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was also hit by unprecedented flooding. While in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo is saying the next generation of infrastructure must take climate change into consideration, we learned that across the river, Governor Chris Christie had deep-sixed his state's climate change research department.

The NYC subway was known to be vulnerable to a powerful storm surge, and flooded as predicted. In the storm's aftermath, the agency furiously tweeted updates and churned out service maps with lightning speed - .gif -- impressing even traditionally harsh critics. But while much of the damage was dealt with quickly, other assets -- like the South Ferry subway station, and the A train out to the Rockaways -- remain unrestored. Also unclear: how the agency will cover the $5 billion in damages. So far, the plan is to take on debt rather than pile on to an already scheduled fare hike.

Our complete Sandy coverage is here.

The entrance to the downtown 1 train at Broadway and 79th Street, pre-storm (photo by Kate Hinds)

A New Tappan Zee Bridge Moves from Idea to Design Plan

The aging Tappan Zee Bridge is being replaced at the cost of several billion dollars -- making it the largest contract ever awarded in New York State. After a lengthy debate about adding transit, which some argued should at least include a plan for bus rapid transit, Cuomo said speed and cost outweighed the merits of adding a rail line.  Transit advocates howled, and some key county officials held up a vote -- but the governor's vision ultimately prevailed: the bridge will be 'transit-ready' -- meaning plans for a rail link or a fully iterated BRT line have been tabled for a future date.

Meanwhile, the issue of how to pay for the bridge has yet to be resolved. The bridge wasn't included in the first round of federal TIFIA loans; the state has since re-applied. The governor said the brunt of the cost would come from tolls -- but the backlash to the idea of a $14 crossing was swift.  A builder was chosen this month (see pics) and work will begin after the state comptroller okays the contract. The new bridge is scheduled to open in 2018.

And no, the old bridge won't be preserved as a greenway. The NY State Thruway Authority -- the agency in charge of the project -- will demolish it.

The winning Tappan Zee design

Street Safety Investigations

We'll have more on this in the new year, but our work on monitoring safe streets in NYC continued with two investigative reports. In our report "Walking While Poor" we found that, in New Jersey, it is more dangerous to be a pedestrian in low income neighborhoods.

And in New York City, our report Killed While Cycling, uncovered why so few fatal bike crashes lead to arrest. The laws just aren't written to punish vehicle crashes with a criminal response and the NYPD has just 19 detectives assigned to investigate criminality when a car or truck hits someone or something. The department argues more lives can be saved by preventative methods, like speed traps. The result, families of those killed on NYC streets rarely feel justice is done.

After deadly crashes, Chinatown buses wane -- and Bolt and Megabus move in.

New York was the original nexus of a curbside bus network that became known as Chinatown buses because they picked up passengers from unofficial bus stops in Chinatowns up and down the Northeast corridor. But the busy corner under the Manhattan Bridge that was once the nexus of this travel network is now mostly empty.

After a deadly year of crashes in 2011, many said the industry was unsafe. While confused travelers tried to figure out just who regulates Chinatown buses, the government took notice. In June, the U.S. DOT shut down 26 bus companies that operate along the most popular routes: the I-95 corridor from New York to Florida. The DOT called it the “largest single safety crackdown in the agency’s history." 

And while some Chinatown buses are still discreetly operating, they're losing market share: mainstream bus companies like Greyhound are expanding their curbside businesses, actively meeting with community boards to add stops in Chinatown itself.

The driver of the bus crash that killed 15 in 2011, Ophadell Williams, was acquitted of manslaughter charges in December.

Abandoned Bikes

This is one story that became way bigger than we expected. It started out simply enough: Transportation Nation asked readers to help map all of the abandoned bikes in New York City. (For those unfamiliar with NYC: abandoned bikes are strewn about our sidewalks like cigarette butts after a party, the detritus of modern mobility.) We wanted to know how many of these bike carcasses there were, and why they stayed so long encumbering walkways, taking up prime bike parking without being removed by authorities.

The response was overwhelming, both for our humble project and for the city. We found more than 500 busted bikes, cataloged in photos sent in from WNYC listeners. We mapped them through an online civic action platform (SeeClickFix )that anyone could update.

When we began to get inquiries from artists and abandoned bike fans (yes, they exist), we picked out our favorite bike photos from the stack and shared them with each other. WNYC listeners called in to confess and explained why they left cycles to rust away. The project spread to Washington, D.C. A nonprofit offered to recycle them. Several photographers sent in links to their own portfolios of abandoned bike art. And so we collected authentic abandoned bikes and turned them into an art exhibit. Meanwhile, the city also promised to collect more of them as they streamlined the process for reporting and removal.

See the full project here.

Ragged rusty bikes hide within the sleek and modern Jerome L. Greene Performance Space

Lost Subways of New York

We kicked off 2012 with a look at the subway system that never was: dozens of tunnels and platforms that were either abandoned or were built but never used. They form a kind of ghost system that reveals how the city’s transit ambitions have been both realized and thwarted.

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Transportation Nation

No Free Rides? PATH Says Au Contraire, Hoboken

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

(photo by AgentAkit via flickr)

Hoboken residents -- who endured seven-plus weeks of no PATH train service, post-Sandy -- are getting a month's worth of free rides.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Wednesday it will provide 30 free days of PATH service to Hoboken residents who have registered 30-day SmartLink cards.

In a press release, the Port Authority said the free service was a way to show appreciation for the hardship that Hoboken residents experienced.

"We truly understand the extreme difficulties that closure of the Hoboken station put on our loyal resident riders,’’ said Stephen Kingsberry, PATH’s acting director and general manager. “We hope these residents understand the extraordinary efforts PATH workers and contractors made to reopen the station and will accept this free month as a sign of our appreciation for your patience.”

The PATH system was hobbled by Hurricane Sandy, and the Hoboken station experienced some of the area's worst flooding. The station was closed from October 29 until December 19, when service to 33rd Street resumed.

These sandbags weren't enough to prevent flooding in the elevator shafts during storm Sandy. (Photo by Alec Perkins via flickr)

While the entire Northeast experienced massive transit disruption during Sandy, the PATH outage has been especially trying for Hoboken: it has one of the highest percentages of transit ridership in the nation. Bus service between Manhattan and Hoboken has been overcrowded and strained since Sandy, and ferry service -- which costs $9 one way -- is four times as costly as the PATH.

The Wall Street Journal reported cab rides between New York City and Hoboken have doubled since the storm, and the AP says the PATH disruption is causing some residents to leave Hoboken altogether.

There is still no PATH service between Hoboken and the World Trade Center.

 

 

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WNYC News

Christmas Arrives Early in the Rockaways

Sunday, December 23, 2012

At a banquet hall usually reserved for wedding receptions in Howard Beach hundreds of families affected by Sandy received an early Christmas surprise courtesy of the relief group Secret Sandy.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Politics, Staten Island, and Sandy

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Huffington Post reporters Saki Knafo and Lila Shapiro talk about the factors on Staten Island that made it especially vulnerable to the disaster that came with Sandy. They’ve reported investigative pieces looking at the political landscape on Staten Island and the power of real-estate development.

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WNYC News

State Officials Mull End of LIPA

Thursday, December 20, 2012

WNYC

State officials are working on plans to overhaul and possibly kill the Long Island Power Authority two months after Sandy knocked out power for nearly a million customers – almost all of Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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Transportation Nation

As PATH Resumes after Sandy, Questions Remain about Agency, Flood Plans

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

World Trade Center Path, Flooded After Sandy (Photo: Andrea Bernstein)

UPDATED* (Brigid Bergin, New York -- WNYC) Hoboken, NJ commuters are finally getting some relief Wednesday as PATH train service resumed on a limited schedule seven weeks after Sandy flooded the transit system. Though the new direct service into Manhattan was greeted like an early Christmas present to residents, larger management and transparency issues are surfacing about the agency that runs the bi-state rail system.

In the first weeks after the storm, when all trains into New York were interrupted, Irene Smith faced a commuting nightmare. She lives at the end of the NJ Transit Port Jervis line and commutes into Manhattan. It took her eight hours a day, she said, and involved a train, a ferry, and a bus to get to and from work. When NJ Transit service from Secaucus improved, her commute shortened to three hours. The last leg to return was the PATH train.

“Well it changed the last part of my trip from about half an hour, to an hour,” said Smith. “And I have a two hour trip before I get to Hoboken, so it was really rough.”

The PATH still isn't fully operational. There's no overnight service, though the agency hopes to restore it by New Year’s Eve.

Port Authority officials say the PATH system suffered catastrophic damage from the 10 million gallons of water they estimate flooded the tunnels. By Port Authority estimates that caused $300 million worth of damage -- just on the PATH system.

Just shy of a month after Sandy, acting PATH director Stephen Kingsberry took reporters into the damaged Hoboken station and PATH tunnel to show the media the extent of the storm damage.

Kingsberry pointed to photographs of flooding at the PATH stations. The images were released by the Port Authority after the storm and picked up by many local media outlets, including TN. For the tour, the photos were pasted to poster boards sitting on an easel behind him.

One picture shows water breaching an elevator shaft at the Hoboken station. There's also a shot of one of those pressurized floodgates. Those floodgates were purchased after the last time the system flooded during a powerful Nor'easter in December of 1992. That storm knocked out PATH service for 10 days.

But those floodgates are only four feet tall and Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico explained via email, “The entrance flood gates were not designed for the unprecedented storm surge that occurred” during Sandy.

However, those aren’t the only floodgates the Port Authority has been investing in. There are budget lines dating back to 2009 for a “floodgates / flood mitigation” project. Officials confirm the Port Authority has spent $181 million on those projects. But it’s not clear what that money paid for.

The 2012 capital budget explicitly states the Port Authority completed installation of floodgates and interior strengthening in Tunnel F, one of the tunnels out of the World Trade Center site.

A spokesman for the Port Authority says those gates are part of a security project that's not scheduled to be operable until 2014. But that's all they'll say about the project.

The PATH system doesn't have a permanent director, leading to chatter within the transit community about management issues. The acting PATH director is Stephen Kingsberry.  His former boss, Michael P. DePallo, left to run the transit system in Los Angeles October 13. . There's also been a lot of movement in the ranks of the Port Authority since the Ward left.

The Port Authority says there's a clear chain of command, but it also keeps a very strict approach to how it shares information.

*The initial version of this story incorrectly made reference to the Port Authority being without a permanent director.  That is incorrect. Pat Foye has run the authority for over a year.  TN regrets the error

Brigid Bergin is at bbergin@wnyc.org and you can follow her on Twitter @brigidbergin.

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WNYC News

Area of Expected Flooding Rises for NJ

Friday, December 14, 2012

New flood maps for New Jersey predict water levels to climb several feet higher than previous estimates when major storms strike the state.

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Schoolbook

City Teachers Pledge $1B in Sandy Rebuilding

Friday, December 14, 2012

New York City’s teachers' pension fund will put $1 billion towards financing construction and repair projects for city roads, bridges, and homes, President Bill Clinton among others announced the unusual arrangement on Thursday.

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Transportation Nation

Report: National Weather Service Says NJ Transit Didn't Ask About Flooding

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hoboken Terminal, post-Sandy (photo by NJ Transit via flickr)

The National Weather Service says New Jersey Transit didn't call.

The Star-Ledger is reporting the agency never consulted the National Weather Service, which predicted storm surges of up to 11 feet.

But NJ Transit isn't backpedaling from its costly decision to store rail cars in yards that later flooded during storm Sandy.

NJ Transit director James Weinstein told a State Legislative panel Monday the agency relied on weather reports and past storm experience to determine where to store hundreds of rail cars and locomotives.

The transit agency's Kearny facility, which sustained almost $100 million in damage, is only ten feet above sea level.

Weinstein told lawmakers the agency's decision-making process was sound.

New Jersey Transit says it's standing by his testimony.

To see what areas flooded during Sandy, check out the map below.

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WNYC News

At White House Party, Long Island Menorah Becomes Symbol of Resilience

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Long Island menorah that survived Sandy will be taking center stage at the White House Hanukkah party Thursday evening.

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Transportation Nation

NJ Transit Chief: We Thought We Had 20 Years to Respond to Climate Change

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hoboken Terminal, flooding during Sandy (photo by accarrino via flickr)

The head of New Jersey Transit dug in his heels on Monday, defending the agency's preparations in advance of Sandy -- and adding it previously thought it would have at least 20 more years to adapt to climate change.

As Transportation Nation reported, critics say there's a direct line between NJ Governor Chris Christie's  inaction on climate change and New Jersey transit’s costly decision to store brand-new trains in low-lying, flood prone rail yards during storm Sandy.

At a Senate subcommittee hearing last week, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg questioned NJ Transit's decision to park trains in rail yards that flooded during Sandy. But when agency head James Weinstein defended that decision, saying his information indicated an "80 to 90 percent range that no flooding would happen," the questions stopped.

For four days.

At a New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee hearing in Trenton on Monday, Weinstein was asked to retread the steps the agency took to secure its fleet in the face of the oncoming storm -- and explain why it decided not to study the impact of climate change on its rolling stock.

Assemblywoman Linda Stender picked up the issue.  "Back in March," she said, "it was reported that New Jersey Transit declined to have climate change consultants do an analysis -- they were told to skip it."

Not so, Weinstein said.

"Basically, it was a study to determine a study," he said. 'It was sort of the beginning of a process, and I think the response and the decision that as made at that time was  that if we understand the vulnerability of our properties, where we store equipment -- the way you deal with equipment is to move it to places where it's not vulnerable.  So I'm not quite sure what a consultant would have told us, other than ' this facility is in harm's way,  you need to move it out of harm's way.'"

Stender wasn't mollified. "I guess my concern is I don't understand why a decision like that was made," she said, pointing out that other transit agencies were studying the issue. "It really seems to me that was a very bad choice to have skipped something like that."

Weinstein disagreed with that characterization. The agency did the study, he said -- just not all of it.

"We did not skip the study," Weinstein retorted. "We actually executed the study. The only thing we didn't do in that study was an analysis of the actual equipment. We did an analysis, the beginning of an analysis, on the facilities...and the reason that we did that is because if you determine that the Meadowlands Maintenance Facility, for instance, is flood-prone, then.. that informs your decision not to keep equipment there...We actually -- that study is actually complete, I've seen a copy of it, although I confess I have not studied it, but I don't want to leave the impression that we just said 'no, we're not going to do that.' That's not what we did. We did the study; we just concluded that the way you address the equipment problem, the rolling stock problem, is by moving it."

But wouldn't a study show that the facility was vulnerable and the equipment should have been moved, countered Stender?

"Actually, Assemblywoman, that study showed -- concluded -- that we had as much as 20 years to start making -- to adapt to climatological changes that are taking place," said Weinstein, "and I just go back and say this: it was the worst storm in my memory, in our generation, and the reality is that there is no history of flooding at the Meadowlands Maintenance Complex. I know everybody says it's in a flood zone. It's not! The western part of Hoboken Terminal is not in a flood zone. Now, having said that, we are informed. We know now that under circumstances like Sandy that that's going to flood. So we've got to come up with a better idea."

"I would really recommend that ... you revisit that issue," said Stender. "The fact that it happened means that there was a possibility that it could happen and somebody didn't see it."

Later in the hearing, Weinstein said the Meadowlands facility could not be relocated -- "nor frankly do I believe, at least at this point, that there is a necessity to do it. I believe that we can build some resiliency in, and we're going to be looking that those, but frankly, rail yards have been located in that area of our state for well over 100 years."

He said NJ Transit planned to elevate some electrical substations. And, he said, it had learned from Sandy's experience. "I can assure you that we will not be parking equipment at the Meadowlands Maintenance Facility in the face of a similar storm in the near future."

Weinstein  also assured lawmakers NJ Transit wouldn't raise fares to cover the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage it sustained during the storm.  "Absolutely not. There will be no fare increase to cover the costs. We believe all of those costs will be covered by other means -- insurance, FEMA reimbursement. Period."

That assertion was questioned by Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, who sounded incredulous. "You're assuring [us] that there won't be any rate increases, even though the insurance companies -- once they cover your damages -- they're going to hike up your premiums?"

"There will be no fare increases," Weinstein said firmly.

"For how long?" pressed Chivukula. "This is the question the committee - "

"For as long as I am executive director," Weinstein interjected.

"I don't know how long that will be," said Chivukula.

"Nor do I, sir," responded Weinstein, causing the assemblyman to dissolve into laughter.

 

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Schoolbook

How to Talk About Sandy in Your Essay

Monday, December 10, 2012

Some high school seniors had their college applications delayed by Sandy, and may be writing about the experience. What real-life events were in your essay? Hear the conversation on The Brian Lehrer Show. Plus, Don Fraser, from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, offers suggestions on how to best address the storm's impact in an essay.

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WNYC News

Totaled Cars Satisfy Recyclers' Appetite for Destruction

Monday, December 10, 2012

As unsalvageable, flood-damaged cars get hauled off the streets, they have to go somewhere. Recyclers are now beginning to report an uptick in business due to Sandy.

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