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NYC School Bus Strike Looms

Friday, November 18, 2011

(photo by Ben Walker via Flickr)

(New York, NY -- WNYC Newsroom)  Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned of an "immediate strike" by the city's school bus drivers that could  impact 152,000 students.

"If and when a strike should happen we're going to do everything possible to help parents who rely on school buses to get their children to school safely," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg said the MTA is ready to issue students round-trip MetroCards for each day of the potential strike and parents can request them to accompany young or special needs students to and from school.

It was unclear when or if the union would strike.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the Department of Education has prepared "for the worst," and alerted parents in an email Friday that they should prepare for a "strong possibility of an immediate system-wide strike."

"The union's threat to strike and leave 152,000 students and their families in the lurch is nothing short of shameful," Walcott said.

The strike threat by drivers with Local 11-81 came as a response to the Department of Education's bid for new yellow bus contracts.

The union wants the bid to include a measure that guarantees workers their seniority rights if their current employers do not win the new bid.

The DOE called the potential strike illegal. The union has not responded for comment.

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Transportation Nation

Extending the Subway to New Jersey Could Cost Less than ARC

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A draft study has found an extension of the number 7 subway to Secaucus, New Jersey, would cost far less than the NJ Transit tunnel Governor Chris Christie killed last fall — but would lose only about 5,000 of an expected 130,000 riders per day that were projected to ride the ARC train.

"The idea of having good transportation and mass transportation is something that is very appealing to this city," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Wednesday. "I’ve always argued that if you’re going to depend on cars to come into this city, we’re always going to have delays."

Mayor Bloomberg’s administration began looking into the idea of extending the 7 train to Secaucus shortly after the NJ Transit tunnel, known as the ARC tunnel for “Access to the Region’s Core,” was killed.

Christie said he killed the $9 billion project because the actual cost could run as high as $15 billion, and he was concerned that New Jersey taxpayers would be left holding the bag.

But city officials said the new project would have a broader base of financing — from the city, the Port Authority, the state, NJ Transit, the federal government, and the MTA.

And the preliminary study, which exists only in draft form and has not been made public, projects the “Secaucus 7” project would cost less than the ARC because it wouldn’t go as far into Manhattan, or require the construction of a train station in midtown Manhattan, as the ARC tunnel would have.

Bloomberg pushed the extension of the number 7 line train to the far West Side when the city was vying for the 2012 Olympics. That bid failed, but the city is spending $2 billion to bring the 7 train to the Hudson Yards, where the city is planning a major development project. The extension to 34th street and 11th Avenue makes it that much closer to New Jersey.

But the MTA response was lukewarm: “Right now our focus is on finishing the three biggest transportation projects in the entire country, and in making sure that we have the funding we need to keep our capital program moving forward.”

The MTA faces a $10 billion shortfall in its capital plan through 2014. The Port Authority is also short of cash. The bi-state agency recently raised tolls to support reconstruction efforts at the World Trade Center Site and other major infrastructure projects, including replacing all of the suspension cables on the George Washington bridge.

Both the MTA and the Port Authority have new leaders, who have been tasked by Governor Andrew Cuomo with containing costs.

The money that would have been spent on the ARC tunnel has been re-allocated elsewhere. Privately, transit experts expressed doubts that the tunnel could be built so cheaply, or that it could be completed anywhere in the near term. The ARC tunnel was 20 years in the planning.

The 7 extension has the enthusiastic support of the Bloomberg administration, which met with all the major transit agencies and representatives from both governor’s offices.  Christie is also backing the project, which could — if it’s constructed — end up giving him bragging rights that killing the tunnel produced a cheaper alternative, particular for New Jersey residents.

"We have been intrigued all along by this as a potential alternative to the ARC tunnel project, which was an albatross for New Jersey and its taxpayers with its billions in cost overruns to be absorbed entirely by New Jersey," Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said in a statement. "We will continue to explore the No. 7 subway plan, its feasibility, benefits and costs with the city and state of New York and the appropriate government agencies in both states."

The project could help New Jersey commuters get to Manhattan faster than by bus, but it would require a transfer to the New York subway system, which is seen as a less desirable ride than a commuter train. A terminus in Secaucus could also provide the possibility to increase bus capacity in New Jersey, since the number of buses traveling to Manhattan through the Lincoln Tunnel is currently at capacity.

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WNYC News

Extending 7 Train to New Jersey Could Cost Less Than ARC Tunnel

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

WNYC

A draft study done for the city has found an extension of the number 7 subway to Secaucus, New Jersey, would cost far less than the NJ Transit tunnel Governor Chris Christie killed last fall — but would lose only about 5,000 of an expected 130,000 riders per day.

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Features

Bloomberg and Quinn Spend Time with Food Manufacturers at Expo

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On the city's first annual Food Day Monday, an array of tempting foods and delicacies were on display at Baruch College. Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Christine Quinn marked the day by attending the first city-sponsored food manufacturing expo.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Digital Contract Woes

Monday, October 03, 2011

New York Times reporter David Halbfinger talks about his recent article and the problems with the Bloomberg administration's wildly over-budget personnel tracking system.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: NJ Now Owes Interest on Cancelled ARC Tunnel Debt, Maine Speed Limit 75 on One Road, and Lightning Zaps LIRR

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Top stories on TN:

DC's paratransit system battles financial woes, unhappy passengers. (Link)

NYC ramping up installation of accessible pedestrian crosswalk signals. (Link)

A Houston official tries to sell bike commuting in a car-centric city. (Link)

The ARC tunnel groundbreaking, during happier times -- and under another governor (photo courtesy of Tri State Transportation Campaign)

$2.6 million in interest was added to the $274 million bill New Jersey owes the federal government after killing the ARC tunnel. (AP via NJ.com)

Speaking of ARC: the enmity between New Jersey's governor, Chris Christie, and NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg stems from the tunnel's cancellation. (NY Times)

Virginia is withholding millions in transit funds until it gets seats on local transit boards. (Washington Post)

As the Port Authority's head prepares to move on, the agency reviews its project list -- and prepares to make some tough decisions. (Wall Street Journal)

On one lone highway in Maine, the speed limit is now 75. (Marketplace)

Mitt Romney, a Republican presidential candidate, wants to privatize Amtrak. (The Hill)

Three Miami police officers on bicycle patrol were hit by an SUV. (Miami Herald)

A lightning strike knocked out Long Island Rail Road service yesterday. (WNYC)

NYC subway: more platforms slated for cell service. (NY Post)

Tweet of the day, via Azi Paybarah: "price of medallion is about $650K today, which shows you 'how lucrative it is to drive a cab' said @mikebloomberg."

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Haggerty Trial: Inside Politics

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reporter Azi Paybarah from capitalnewyork.com discusses the trial of John Haggerty, the man accused of spending the $1 million he was paid by the Bloomberg campaign for "ballot security" on a house.

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WNYC News

Bloomberg Defends Outer-Borough Taxi Plan

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg continued to defend his proposal to allow taxi street hails in outer-boroughs and the sale of additional medallions — even as the legislation remains unsigned by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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WNYC News

Mayors Campaign Against Concealed Gun Bill

Monday, September 12, 2011

WNYC

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other mayors in support of gun control are speaking out against a bill that would allow licensed gun owners to carry concealed firearms across state lines.

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Soundcheck

Bloomberg and will.i.am Reschedule Central Park Concert

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On Wednesday, Mayor Bloomberg, the Black Eyed Peas star and officials from the Robin Hood Foundation announced "Concert 4 NYC" would be held on Sept. 30.

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It's A Free Country ®

Bloomberg's Anti-Poverty Record: Right or Wrong?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I think what the mayor is doing is giving a free market analysis, that's to say the problem is not with institutions, with the local economy, the problem is with the individual family, and if you can just incentivize the family, whether it's a high school kid or a mother and father, then that will solve the problem.

 Glenn Pasanen, public finance columnist for Gotham Gazette

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It's A Free Country ®

City Budget Progresses with Help from Teachers Union

Monday, June 27, 2011

We really have a disastrous fiscal years in the out years, a $5 billion budget gap in 2013 and the reality that Albany and Washington are stepping away and are going to continue cutting their contributions to the city so even tougher choices lay ahead. We dodged the bullet this time.

WNYC's Bob Hennelly on The Brian Lehrer Show.

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The Takeaway

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Economy, Climate Change

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Eighty percent of New York City's pollutants come from buildings and 20 percent from transportation. This is a reversal from most cities, which see pollution from transportation rather than high density buildings, explains New York's Mayor Bloomberg. The mayor is in Sao Paolo, Brazil for a meeting on climate change. "There's an awful lot that has to be done on a national and an international level, says mayor Bloomberg. "But at the same time, mayors are held accountable to deliver services and are trying to do things at a local level."

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Transportation Nation

Truck Safety Mirror Measure Passes NY State Senate

Monday, May 23, 2011

A crossover mirror on the hood of a city sanitation truck, as viewed from the driver's seat.  (Photo by: Jim O'Grady.)

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The New York State Senate passed a bill today that would require special safety mirrors on the hoods of some trucks that use city streets.

The so-called crossover mirrors attach to both sides of the hood and allow drivers to spot pedestrians ordinarily hidden by the front of the truck. On Friday, Mayor Bloomberg announced his support for the bill at a street corner press conference in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where a woman and her daughter were struck and killed by a van in 1994.

"The mirrors cost on average about a hundred bucks," Bloomberg said. "And when you compare to what it costs for a full tank of gas for these trucks, about 400 dollars, you'll see that it is not prohibitively expensive and it really is a great investment for our safety."

The bill would apply to New York State trucking companies that send vehicles into the five boroughs. Trucks used by city agencies already use the mirrors.

Kendra Adams, president of The New York State Motor Truck Association said a better solution would be installing mirrors at intersections to give all drivers a better view of pedestrians. "Trucks account for only four percent of curbside injuries in the city," she said. "We support and practice safety."

The bill now moves to the New York State Assembly.

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Transportation Nation

After Hundreds of Millions of Dollars of Public Subsidies, Barely Used Yankees Parking Garages Face Financial Collapse

Thursday, May 19, 2011

This garage was built on a park in the Bronx at behest of the Yankees. Two-thirds empty on game days, the garage is now facing financial collapse

(Bronx,  NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) In the far North Bronx, near the Yonkers border, right fielder Stephan Alamies of the All Hallows High School varsity baseball team is batting against Mount Saint Michael. This is a home game for All Hallows--but they’re playing on their opponents’ field. They drove 45 minutes by bus to get here. Coach Edgardo Guttierez says the team used to play four blocks from school.

“Unfortunately, the Yankees built their parking lot on the field that we used to practice on," he said.

On the team bus, the players weren't any happier than their coach. "We feel like a bunch of gypsies just traveling all over the place," said Alamies before the other players chimed in: “It’s depressing.” “People want to come see us but they can’t see us. We don’t have a home field, we don’t know where we’re at.”

The team, like the rest of the neighborhood around Yankee Stadium, is still waiting for promised replacement fields.

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But so few Yankee fans are parking at eleven garages and lots around the new stadium that the company managing them may soon default on $237 million in tax exempt bonds used to build them.  In an effort to stave off collapse, the garages recently hiked prices to $35 a game.  But as of last month, they were two thirds empty on game days.

According to public documents and two separate analyses, the Bronx Parking Development company owes the city $17 million in back rent and other payments. The city is paying $195 million to replace the parkland it gave to the Yankees. And New York State spent $70 million to build Parking Garage B. That's where Derek Jeter and his fellow players park, along with VIP ticket holders. The garage is not open to the public, and allows those who use it to enter directly into the stadium.

Bettina Damiani is project director at Good Jobs New York, a government watchdog group. "It doesn't seem to make sense to publicly subsidize the stadium and also publicly subsidize the parking garages," she said, adding it isn’t just about the money. "This is about the impact it's had on an entire generation of kids who have not had access to open public park space the way they did have."

The new Yankee Stadium is smaller than the old one. But when the team insisted in 2006 that it needed 2,000 extra parking spots, the New York City Industrial Development Agency issued 237  million dollars in tax exempt bonds for an expanded parking system--paving over the neighborhood's only regulation baseball diamonds to do it.

The Yankees insisted from the beginning that they needed 9,000 parking spots, 2,000 more than before. They even made it a legal condition for not moving out of the Bronx.

At a City Council hearing in 2006, Yankees president Randy Levine predicted additional parking garages would bring less traffic to the neighborhood. “By building the new parking spots, the cars will get out of the community, won’t circle around the community and disrupt it, and will go into parking lots," he said.  As a sweetener, the Bloomberg administration, pushing the plan, added a last-minute concession:  it would build a new Metro-North stop next to the field.

The Yankees got their new stadium -- and their 9000 parking spots.  The stadium plan passed the city council, 44 to 3.

In 2006, Speaker Christine Quinn defended the garages.

“I think it would be great if people could go to sporting events exclusively on mass transit but that’s not going to happen," she said. "So one has to, when they’re developing projects like this, have a reality sense of what the needs are as it relates to parking."

But the MTA tells WNYC that more than 50% of a typical sell-out crowd arrives by train, bus or ferry. Many fans who do drive skip the $35 dollar charge for a spot at a Yankee garage and either park on the street or at cheaper lots in the neighborhood. One local garage advertises on a flyer that says, "Don't pay 35 dollars." Its prices start at $15.

Little has changed from 2006 outside the stadium on game days. Traffic cops stand on corners directing the circling cars. By first pitch, every one of the area’s 3,200 curbside spots is filled.

Angel Castillo, a car-owner who lives four blocks from the stadium, sees it all season. “Oh my God, sometimes if I come and the game starts, I gotta wait when the game finished one hour after the game," he said. "After midnight.”

Castillo says street parking is so scarce during Yankee homestands that he’ll leave his car in a spot for four days and pay fifteen dollars each way for a car service to his job as a barbershop manager in the North Bronx.

Mayor Bloomberg says private bondholders, not taxpayers, will be on the hook if the Bronx Parking Development Company defaults on the bonds. On his weekly radio show, he shrugged off the Bronx Parking Development Company's possible collapse.

“The city has no downside," he said. "If they were to go bankrupt, it doesn't hurt us. It wouldn’t be good for the project."

But taxpayers have been hurt.

Back at the game in the North Bronx, Stephan Alamies waits for the pitch. It’s 3-3 in the bottom of the 10th inning. He swings…and the ball is gone. All Hallows wins on a walk-off homer. The victory helps them clinch their division. Today, they’re preparing for the playoffs.

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WNYC News

Brooklyn Has the Most FDNY Companies Facing the Ax

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Bloomberg Administration on Wednesday released the names of 20 fire companies the mayor is considering closing to help close the city's budget gap. The document given to the City Council lists eight closings in Brooklyn, four in Queens, three each in the Bronx and Manhattan and two in Staten Island.

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Transportation Nation

Just How Do Livery Cabs Make Money?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

NYC Livery Cab (Photo: Ilya Marritz/WNYC)

(New York, NY -- Ilya Marritz, WNYC) It's a quirky New York phenomenon -- there's the yellow cab world, which (unlike many cities around the world) can be hailed on the street most places in Manhattan and in small pockets of the outer boroughs, like Brooklyn Heights, a tony neighborhood just across the Brooklyn Bridge.

But then there's the world of livery cabs -- on call services, patronized by many New Yorkers who are too poor (or can't be bothered) to own a car.  New York has the lowest car ownership rates of any large city in the country.

And livery cabs tend to be run by groups of aspiring immigrants, many of them from South or Central America.

But when it comes to catching a cab, New Yorkers living outside of Manhattan often have a tough time. This year, New York Mayor  City Bloomberg proposed to allow car services, also known as liveries, to make curbside pickups. But there’s a catch – they’d have to install meters.

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WNYC News

Alleged Illegal Searches by NYPD May Be Increasing Marijuana Arrests

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Police arrest 140 people every day in New York City for possessing small amounts of marijuana. It's now by far the most common misdemeanor charge in the city, and thousands of these arrests take place when police stop-and-frisk young men in the poorest neighborhoods. Police say these stop-and-frisks are a way to find guns, what they find more often is a bag of marijuana.

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Transportation Nation

Plug It In! NYC Cruise Ships Getting Greener Energy

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 is one of the ships that calls at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. (Photo CC flickr user Jill Clardy)

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Cruise ships that dock at New York's Brooklyn Cruise Terminal will get a little greener. New York will connect three berths for the massive vessels with plug-in power from the city's electrical grid, allowing the ships to shut off their diesel generators.

"By bringing the first cruise ship shore power operation on the East Coast to Red Hook [Brooklyn], we'll lower fossil fuel emissions and improve air quality for local residents," NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.

The City says, cruise ships typically berth for up to eleven hours while passengers load and unload. The Mayor's office estimates the shift from high-sulfur diesel to electric grid power for as many as three ships at a time could result in the elimination of 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

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It's A Free Country ®

Council Wastes No Time Grilling Walcott on Teacher Layoffs

Friday, April 08, 2011

The City Council Education panel did not spare Schools Chancellor-appointee Dennis Walcott on his second day on the job, attacking Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plans to eliminate 6,000 teaching slots.

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