Wnyc New York City
Thursday, September 20, 2012
By Bob Hennelly
(New York, NY -- WNYC) The day after the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey released a consultant's report lauding the agency's newfound zeal for transparency and accountability, the public showed up at the agency's monthly Board of Commissioners meeting with a very different assessment.
It was a full house.
A contingent of 9/11 family members used the public comment period to urge the Commissioners to reject a Memorandum of Understanding entered into last week between the bi-state agency and the National September 11th Memorial and Museum. The deal, reached a day before the eleventh anniversary of the terror attacks, cleared the way for work to resume. Construction at the site had halted last year after a funding squabble.
Sally Regenhard, who lost her firefighter son on September 11th, took the Port Authority to task for not sufficiently involving the 9/11 families in the process. "Do not approve this MOU until we can have full public disclosure involving the 9/11 families as well as the community."
Richard Hughes of the Twin Towers Alliance told the panel it was being expedient with their deal with the Memorial and Museum that calls for passing ownership of the former site of the Twin Towers to the non-profit in exchange for adjacent land where the Deutsche Bank building once stood.
"You have eight acres of prime important downtown real estate -- a site that is sacred to all of us -- and you are giving it away or swapping it, but it is really giving it away, without public debate, behind closed doors," Hughes said.
Under the agency's public comment period protocol, Commissioners don't respond directly to the public. But speaking to reporters afterwards, officials defended the deal as breaking a lengthy impasse and insuring the project stays on budget while guaranteeing the site remains a memorial.
Of particular concern to family members at the hearing were the plans to place several thousand of the unidentified remains from the attack in the museum. Boosters of that plan say it will permit work to continue on identifying the remains. The 9/11 families want the surviving families to be polled.
The full board approved the MOU over their objections -- but after the vote, Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye reminded reporters the agency had lost 84 employees in the attack. He said he understood the families' concerns about the remains. "Given the grievous loss those family members experienced that is an issue that resonates with me," Foye said.
But it isn't only how the Port has handled Ground Zero that had members of the public fuming.
Casandra Dock came with residents of of the city of Newark. She chastised the Commissioners for not holding public meetings of the board west of the Hudson in New Jersey.
"I come before this board today -- since this is the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey -- to ask this board to have some of these board meetings over in Newark, New Jersey," Dock said.
In the board's brief public meeting it did move on some items without controversy. John F. Kennedy International Airport will host a animal handling facility that the Port Authority says will be the most comprehensive facility of its kind in the nation. The board also approved the deal with ARK Development LLC to convert a vacant building at JFK into what Foye says will be a state-of-the-art facility that will handle everything from household pets to horses.
"And this facility will provide animal daycare and kenneling services, more efficient animal transport services--a full service veterinary hospital. The facility is expected to serve approximately 70,000 wild and domestic animals a year,"Foye said.
The deal will net the agency more than $100 million dollars in rent over the next 20 years.
The Port also funded a study looking at the feasibility of taking over Atlantic City International Airport. It will also take a look at running its existing PATH train from where it currently ends -- in Newark Penn Station -- out to Newark Liberty Airport.
The latest board actions come as the agency grapples with how to fund some $44 billion dollars in upgrades it says the region's transportation infrastructure will need by 2020.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
(Caitlyn Kim, New York, NY -- WNYC) The Taxi and Limousine Commission approved the city's next generation of yellow cabs Thursday morning.
The Nissan NV will hit New York City streets next fall. Among the features of the new taxi, which retails for about $29,000, are an interior skylight, a charging dock for passengers' electronics, and air bags.
Any taxi vehicle purchased before next fall can remain on the streets until it has to be retired due to wear and tear, which usually takes about five years. By 2018, the Nissan model is expected to be the only taxi in the city.
That means hybrid taxis will be one of the 16 car models phased out. The Nissan only gets approximately 25 miles per gallon.
The hybrid, while environmentally attractive, did have its detractors. Passengers complained of a lack of leg room, while cabbies said it was less reliable than the old Crown Vic model.
New Yorkers got a chance to look at the NV at the car show in April, and many praised the new features and the expanded leg room. But the boxy shape of the taxi didn’t please many.
Nissan won the 10-year, $1 billion contract to provide the exclusive taxi for the city in May 2011.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
New Yorkers are confronted with all manner of subway solicitations, from ad campaigns (like Dr. Zizmor's decades-long rainbow-fueled quest for perfect skin) to world-class musicians. But it's the daily decision to spare some change or ignore the pleas that presents the biggest ethical challenge.
WNYC's Cindy Rodriguez took to the trains to find out how many New Yorkers deal with this ethical puzzle.
Several social service providers say whether to give to panhandlers is a personal decision, and there is no right or wrong. Joel Berg, who runs the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, said it’s probably the question he gets asked the most.
“I would say definitely if it’s a supposed organization asking for money, that is illegal and that is almost always a scam,” Berg said. “But individual people asking for money, it’s really up to your conscience in each situation.”
The MTA said it frequently receives complaints about panhandling from customers. And while times are trying, the MTA notes there are other ways to help. “Poverty and hunger are vexing, stubborn problems and we urge our customers to give generously to their favorite and most trusted social service charity,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said in a written statement.
Follow Rodriguez on a few rides to see what the other side of the tin can is like for those who beg for a living. One man she meets earns $100 in two hours--then stops so as not to wear out his welcome. He says he begs only when his disability runs out. Another panhandler reports earning just $60 in a day and living off that.
There's a boisterous set of comments at the WNYC website already, so head on over there and listen to the radio story -- then join the conversation.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
By Bob Hennelly
(New York, NY -- WNYC) Two consulting firms hired to conduct an independent review of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have concluded that the bi-state agency has experienced major improvement in how it is operating -- but still must find additional ways to raise revenue to pay for the region's aging transportation infrastructure.
Last year, in the midst of a public outcry over toll and fare hikes at the agency's bridges and tunnels, Navigant Consulting and Rothschild Inc were retained to take a detailed look at the Port Authority. The consultants reported that under the agency's watch the redevelopment costs for the World Trade Center had ballooned from $11 billion to $14.8 billion.
The initial outside review described a dysfunctional bureaucracy with a debt load that had more than doubled -- from $9 billion to $21 billion in just ten years -- while boosting the compensation pay for its employees by 19 percent over the same period.
Now, just seven months later, Port Authority chairman David Samson says a multi-faceted push to reform the agency has paid off with glowing reviews from the same consultants for the management team put in place by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Samson quoted from the latest Navigant report which concluded "the Port Authority has made great improvements in transparency and efforts to complete the World Trade Center program within the estimated costs." Samson said the agency had embarked on "50 distinct initiatives" to revamp everything from its basic governance structure to how the agency manages its capital projects.
The consultants also backed up the Port Authority's controversial toll and fare hikes as being "necessary" to support the agency's capital spending for its Interstate Transportation Network. That point is still hotly contested by local elected officials from both states and the Automobile Association of America. AAA has taken the Port Authority to court over what it claims is the illegal diversion of toll revenues to support non-transportation related projects like the World Trade Center.
And the same day that the Port Authority rolled out the consultant report on the agency's increased transparency, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis was expressing outrage over the agency's decision to appeal a judge's order requiring the Port Authority to turn over an internal report on the impact of its toll hikes on the New York Container Terminal on Staten Island. Malliotakis says the terminal, which provides 550 good-paying jobs, has already lost 58 percent of their business "mostly due to these toll hikes." "What makes this organization so unbelievable is their arrogance in that they feel they can hide this information from the public who partially paid for this study to take place," Mallitokis said. The agency maintains the report is just a draft.
On the conference call to announce the major reset at the Port Authority, executive director Pat Foye insisted the agency's efforts at cost containment had produced tangible results. According to Foye, requiring the agency's non-union staff to contribute to the cost of their health insurance will save the Port $41 million dollars over the next 18 months and tens of millions of dollars in the out years.
But Port Authority officials conceded they still face formidable fiscal challenges. "Our ambitious ten-year capital plan budgets $26.9 billion dollar in capital expenditures for the 2011-2020 planning period. But there is more than $44 billion dollars of known investments that we need to maintain our region's competitiveness," said Port Authority vice chairman Scott Rechler.
"The agency's 80-plus year-old faculties are at capacity and are in critical need of state of good repair work," Rechler said. "There is a significant backlog of projects due to past deferral of state of good repair expenditures. For more than eight years our tunnels, bridges and terminals departments have not met its 80 percent target of preventative maintenance routines which could lead to more costly emergency repairs down the road in the future."
"The region's airports have aged significantly, frequently ranking among the worst in the nation in terms of customer satisfaction, and upgrades will require up to $6.5 billion dollars in additional capital through 2020," Rechler added.
Foye says the Port Authority is going to look to the private sector to help it finance some of its big ticket items -- like the rebuilding of the Goethals Bridge, which links Staten Island and New Jersey. Foye says the public-private partnership model is being given "serious consideration" for upgrading the Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia, as well as at Newark Airport's Terminal A. He says using this model could help the agency raise the $6 billion dollars needed to complete all three projects.
The consultants identified several areas where they felt the Port Authority could bring in as much as $150 million dollars in additional cash annually in non-toll revenue. On the list of possible money makers: additional advertising revenue, improving toll violation recovery, selling off some of the agency's real estate portfolio like the Newark Legal Center and the Teleport business park -- as well as selling air rights to the Port Authority's midtown bus terminal and its Journal Square PATH train station.
Port officials told reporters they are also looking to raise revenue by bringing new hotel capacity to the area around JFK Airport. "The JFK region doesn't have the hotel rooms adequate to service the millions of people who go through each day," Foye said. "We are working on two or three hotel opportunities right now that we expect to be announcing in the future."
New Jersey Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a long time Port Authority critic, credited the Port Authority with "responding to years of inadequate accounting and managerial procedures" but hoped "the newfound commitment to proper governance" would endure.
“My greatest concern is that once the agency no longer feels public pressure to reform, it will return to its old ways," Huttle said in a statement. She's still pushing for passage of the Port Authority Accountability and Transparency Act, which legislators say would increase the Port's public accountability and require an annual audit.
Any legislation to reform the agency has to be passed in both Albany and Trenton. The Port Authority, a bi-state compact, was created by an act of Congress in 1921.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Motorists in Midtown may find their cars at a standstill Tuesday as the UN General Assembly kicks into high gear and President Obama heads to Jay Z's 40/40 club near Madison Square Park for a celebrity-studded fundraiser.
While world leaders who tend to cause the biggest traffic jams — like Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu — won’t be in town until next week, lesser-known dignitaries also bring on checkpoints, street closures and the inevitable gridlock.
The bottlenecks and detours are a headache for the drivers and cabbies plying Manhattan's roadways.
But they're also the perfect opportunity to explore how the MTA and the city's Department of Transportation are — or are not — using technology to help New Yorkers get around more efficiently.
This week on New Tech City, we tackle the intersection of transportation and tech.
Host Manoush Zomorodi talks to Transportation Nation's Alex Goldmark about the latest technology helping New Yorkers navigate the city by car, taxi, subway and bus, as well as what's missing from the city's plan to ease congestion on the roads and rails.
Then, around 5.3 million people ride New York City's 22 subway lines every day, but no one gets uninterrupted cell service below ground.
Reporter Tracey Samuelson investigates just how long it will be until underground subway stations and the tracks between them get outfitted with Wi-Fi.
Plus, we'll introduce you to the perfect smartphone app for that New York stereotype: the neurotic subway commuter.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Just 13 hours before the commemoration of the September 11th attacks was to begin, Mayor Bloomberg and the governors of New York and New Jersey announced they had resolved their disagreement over who owed whom what for building of the museum on the World Trade Center site.
The authority owns the site and is managing construction of the museum for a private foundation. In December, it stopped work because it said it was owed tens of millions of dollars on the project. This agreement will restart the project -- but it won't help the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recoup all of its losses. But, says WNYC reporter Bob Hennelly, it outlines steps to prevent even deeper losses in the future.
Listen to WNYC's conversation about the 9/11 memorial and the Port Authority below.
Friday, August 31, 2012
(WNYC's Money Talking) As Republicans gathered for their national convention in Tampa this week, President Barack Obama stole some of their thunder by announcing that automakers will have to nearly double the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks by 2025.
The new standards mean vehicles will have to get 54.5 miles per gallon, a steep increase from the 29 miles per gallon now required and even the goal of 35 miles per gallon for 2019.
"The car or light truck you'll be driving in 2025 will not be your grandfather's Oldsmobile," wrote U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on his blog "Fast Lane."
The Obama administration said the regulations will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, cut down on pollution, and save drivers thousands at the pump. The White House called them "monumental" and "historic."
But the Romney campaign was quick to label the move “extreme,” saying it limits consumer choice and relies on unproven technologies.
This week on WNYC's Money Talking, two veteran Detroit watchers examine what the fuel efficiency announcement means for the auto industry and whether we'll really see vehicles getting 55 miles per gallon by 2025.
Paul Ingrassia is deputy editor-in-chief of Reuters News and author of the book Engines of Change, which tells the story of how 15 car models shaped American business and culture.
Micheline Maynard has written about the auto industry for a number of publications and wrote the book The End of Detroit: How the Big Three Lost Their Grip on the American Car Market.
They weigh in on how President Obama is making his mark on how we drive, what we pay at the pump, and how much oil we need.
Friday, August 17, 2012
(UPDATED 8/20 7:45am) The city plans to appeal a state Supreme Court judge ruling that blocks New York City's plan to improve taxi service in the outer boroughs by adding a second category of taxis in addition to the city's iconic yellow cabs.
The taxi plan, which would increase street hails to the outer boroughs by adding a second category of taxi authorized to pick up passengers who flag them down on the street. In NYC, only licensed yellow cabs are authorized to do that now. The plan was estimated to bring in an additional $1 billion in revenue from the sale of new medallions. But without it the city faces a $635 budget million shortfall – and it’s only the second month of fiscal year 2013.
In his ruling issued Friday, the judge said the city had illegally bypassed the City Council, and that its decision to make new medallions available only to livery cab owners was unlawful.
The five-borough taxi plan would have brought additional street hail service to areas less frequented by yellow cabs: northern Manhattan and the outer boroughs. The new cabs would have been green.
The city will file an immediate appeal, according to Michael Cardozo, corporation counsel for the New York City Law Department.
“We are confident that the appellate court will uphold the state law authorizing two important transportation initiatives: providing safe and reliable hail service by liveries in areas of the city rarely served by yellow taxicabs, and providing 2,000 more wheelchair-accessible yellow taxicabs for disabled passengers,” said Cardozo in a statement.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn said on Sunday that she shares the disappointment over the court’s decision because it affects taxi accessibility throughout the city. She also said she was concerned about the financial implications.
“This is an important case because it deals with whether or not there will be taxi service that’s really accessible to people geographically throughout all of the city,” said Quinn.
“We will have to find ways to make up those hundreds of millions of dollars, which short of there being an unexpected increase in tax revenues, would mean we’d have to find places in the budget where we would have to cut back,” Quinn said.
Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky tweeted Friday: "ruling delays service for millions -- disappointing!" and conveyed the city would immediately appeal the decision.
In its statement, the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, a group representing yellow cab owners, applauded the ruling and said "Chairman David Yassky and the Administration back-doored a flawed plan in Albany and got caught. It’s that simple."
Some stakeholders expressed concern going forward.
Bhairavi Desai, who heads the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents drivers, worried that yellow cab owners would undo provisions that had finally brought her organization on board.
"Now that they would be going back to the city council, where they've had undue influence for decades, our concern is another plan would be hatched, where drivers would get caught in the crossfire."
Monday, August 13, 2012
What started as journalistic curiosity is now art.
For those of you in New York City, offering up a chance to see abandoned bikes live and in person might seem like trying selling snow cones to Santa Claus. But these bikes are a captivating catalog of plodding decay, each a different shade of rust and crumble. Display them in windows facing a busy downtown sidewalk and, voilà!, you've got art. For proof, see the slide show above, which we recommend you take in as a collection of diverse short stories--all with the same ending.
We've "curated" a collection of the best pictures submitted to our abandoned bike tracker, chosen a broken bike as muse and and added poetry: Bike-Kus, anyone?
The pièce de résistance? We convinced the Department of Sanitation to provide us with several authentically claimed derelict abandoned bikes. (That's different from regular abandoned bikes, as you'll recall from this story). Although we found hundreds of abandoned bikes, there have been just 62 officially removed derelict bikes in NYC this year. Four of them now sit in the The Greene Space along with several others donated by Recycle-A-Bicycle, a youth service charity that refurbishes old bikes.
As a refresher, the evolution of our abandoned bike reporting project began with a simple question: why do busted-up old bikes stay chained to street signs for so long on NYC's crowded sidewalks. We hunted down the answer -- complicated mix of bureaucracy, city law, NYC's density -- and found something else. New Yorkers just love to look at abandoned bikes. And to photograph them.
In chasing what we thought would be a simple answer, we asked for help. That help came in the form of hundreds of geocoded photographs we used to map the phenomenon. Those photographs are what you seen in this post, and in our exhibit.
Come on by Varick Street and Charlton Street in Manhattan. Photos are behind the glass, bikes are inside it!
Thursday, August 09, 2012
By Kathleen Horan : Reporter, WNYC News
If you're traveling by taxi this summer, chances are your driver is hungrier than usual. Nearly half of licensed drivers in the city are Muslim—and they’re not eating because they’re observing Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting and reflection. That means thousands of cabbies are working 12-hour shifts without food, water or caffeine.
Muslims break their daily fast at sundown. One recent evening, the West 29th Street curbside in Manhattan held so many taxis that the street glowed yellow. This commercial district in Manhattan has free evening parking, a boon for drivers.
Around 8 p.m., as the day's light faded, cabbies rushed into a mosque called Masjid Ar-Rhahman. A mountain of their shoes rose in the vestibule. Soon their sung prayers emanated from a loudspeaker at the top of the mosque. Outside, vendors selling prayer books and sweet treats waited patiently for the cabbies to emerge from inside.
Driver Lansana Keita was one of the first ones out. He smiled as he ate his first food of the day, a sweet rice concoction that resembled rice pudding. "You need something soft after fasting all day, to help your metabolism to digest,” he said.
Keita said his biggest obstacle during Ramadan is keeping up his stamina during a shift that typically features mind-numbing traffic, the threat of parking tickets and the never-ending drone of the TV in his backseat. He said driving on an empty stomach while dealing with the daily guff from passengers becomes a spiritual exercise.
"When someone cusses on you, you have to let it go," he said. "When someone wants to have drama with you, you have to let it go--those are the principles of Ramadan.”
Drivers who chose not to eat in the mosque huddled on the sidewalk in small groups to consume their long-awaited meals.
"I love this: it’s called pakora, samosa and chana,” said Mohammed Tipu Sultan, a driver of 10 years, about his Bangladeshi meal. Sultan made the food disappear in a hurry, like anyone would after fasting for 16 hours.
Driver Yehya Abdeen was on his way to get his first caffeine fix at a local cafe before resuming his night shift. He said a purpose of Ramadan is to teach patience—a trait city cabbies aren't always known for.
"I try to be nice all the time, but we try to be more nice during Ramadan," he said, before joking, "But it’s hard when you don't take your coffee, you know?"
During Ramadan, Muslims are required to pray more than the usual five times a day. So you may see drivers stopping to kneel in the direction of Mecca on squares of cardboard or small rugs in the back of bodegas and restaurants.
Or at JFK airport. At the airport's taxi lot, hundreds of drivers were lined up awaiting a fare to Manhattan. About two dozen drivers made use of a makeshift prayer area, bowing and kneeling next to a pair of public restrooms.
Tely Diallo, a tall driver in a gingham shirt, was about to jump into his cab again. He paused to complain that it’s hard to make enough money when you're pulling over to pray an extra two hours a day.
"You can't really do what you've got to do," he said. "You can't pray on time. I was supposed to be praying a long time ago but I couldn’t because you're always in a rush, you want to get the lease money."
Cabbie Mohammed Waheed said it helps that so many other drivers are fasting with him during the holy month. "The fifteen of my friends who are cab drivers—they all fast," he said.
Muslims, including many New York taxi drivers, will be observing Ramadan this year until the weekend of August 18, when the fasting ends and the completion of a month of self-control is celebrated.
Thursday, August 02, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Listener-submitted photos are the foundation of the exhibit. But we also rounded up discarded bike parts and recycled bikes -- generously donated from both Recycle-A-Bicycle and the New York City Department of Sanitation.
We're putting the finishing touches on the show now, and hope you'll be able to experience it in person. In the meantime, check out some pictures of how -- and where -- we got the bikes, a trip which took us from the muraled walls of a Long Island City nonprofit to a city garage with a majestic view on the Hudson River.
For more on the exhibit, visit the Greene Space website. For more on our abandoned bikes project, check out this page.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Fred Mogul will be on the Brian Lehrer Show Wednesday morning to discuss his reporting on this story.
(Fred Mogul - New York, NY, WNYC) Two fencers duel on a New York City sidewalk. One scores a hit. The other concedes. The winner claims the elusive, available taxi.
A woman weightlifter hoists a grocery-filled granny cart over her shoulders, crosses the neighborhood and climbs the stairs of a walk-up.
The images come from a pair of ads, back in 2005, with the tagline: “The Olympic Games in New York. We’ve been training for this forever. NYC-2012.”
But the training wasn’t enough. Seven years ago, London defeated New York City’s bid to host the XXX Summer Olympiad, and the results are on stage for all the world to see.
But what if the Big Apple had won? What would the games have looked like, and what would their legacy be? And would New Yorkers be any less ambivalent about the Olympics in 2012 than they were in 2005?
For one, there certainly would be a wealth of new structures.
Runners would be sprinting in an Olympic Stadium overlooking either the Hudson River or Flushing Bay.
Swimmers would be freestyling in a new aquatic center on the Williamsburg waterfront.
Cyclists would be zipping around a velodrome in the Bronx.
And thousands of athletes would be staying in the new Olympic Village, an apartment building in Long Island City, Queens, across the East River from the United Nations.
Most of the proposed facilities now exist only in the bid books the city and the non-profit NYC-2012 presented to the International Olympic Committee. But a handful of projects have been developed, even without the games. New York’s proposal emphasized that most of what the city would build was necessary, anyway. The Olympic legacy would pay dividends for generations to come, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others argued.
Mitchell Moss, an urban policy professor at NYU and a self-described “informal advisor” to Bloomberg, says so many things have, in fact, been built or are under construction from the Olympic bid that the city really did win the Olympics, figuratively speaking.
“The net effect of having this is that we basically took underused parts of our city and put them to use,” said Moss. “The Olympics are 17 days of sports, but what New York got is a century’s worth of new housing and infrastructure.”
Moss cites the following as Olympics-inspired triumphs:
- The No. 7 subway is being extended from Grand Central Terminal to 11th Avenue. After several delays, the MTA says it’s schedule to open in mid 2014 and be fully completed at the end of 2015.
- The revised Olympic stadium evolved into Citi Field, the home of the Mets, since 2009.
- The would-be gymnastics center became the soon-to-open home of the Brooklyn Nets, Atlantic Yards.
- A sports and cultural center at the 169th Street Armory in Harlem and a new aquatic center and ice rink in Flushing Meadows, Queens, were stalled 1990s projects, until the Olympic bid renewed pressure to fund them, bringing them to completion a few years later.
Less concrete — both literally and figuratively — victories are the Hudson rail yard on the far West Side of Manhattan and Hunters Point in Queens. Moss said the two massive industrial sites had been targeted for redevelopment for decades, but were always captive to controversy and inertia.
Moss puts them in the “win” column, arguing that pressure from the Olympics bid led to their rezoning for residential and commercial use.
“These were all tied to the Olympic [bid] deadline,” Moss said.
But Greg David isn’t so sanguine. The Crain’s Business columnist and CUNY professor calls the far West Side and Hunters Point — by far the biggest challenges before, during and since the Olympic proposal — Exhibits A and B of premature self-congratulation. Both sites have a handful of new buildings, but full development could take decades.
“It isn’t true ‘We won by losing,’ because [hosting] the Olympics would’ve pushed this agenda much further ahead,” David said. “Look at the Hudson rail yards. It’s supposed to be the next great Rockefeller Center. Well, the Olympics are about to start in London, and we’re not about to put the platform up that’s needed for that development, because there aren’t any tenants for it yet.”
New Yorkers were divided in 2005 about the merits of hosting the Olympics, and they continue to split over whether the crowds that would’ve converged and the development that would have ensued would have been good or bad for the metropolitan area.
“I think it would have been lots of fun and definitely help the area a lot,” said Kevin Li, 26, outside the Aquatic Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, where water polo games were slated to be held under the city’s proposal.
Nearby, Wayne Conti, 60, disagreed.
“Sometimes it turns out afterwards that in their rush to build they didn’t really build the right things and you’re kind of stuck with it afterwards,” he said.
Andrew Wong, 40, a Queens resident who works on the Far West Side sees both sides.
“For most of us regular working folks it would have wreaked havoc on our everyday lives,” he said.
But he noted development in the area, which is inevitable, would have moved forward more quickly and coherently, if the city had to build a stadium and whip the largely industrial area into shape by 2012.
“When you have a deadline everything falls into place. All the politics, all the deadlock with the government — everybody finds a way to make things happen. When you don't have a deadline, everything stretches out forever.”
Perhaps not forever. But for Hudson Yards, Hunters Point and other areas in the city’s Olympic bid book, it could take a while.
Whether New Yorkers think that’s a good or bad thing depends on whether they believe urban development, like the Olympics, should be Faster, Higher, Stronger — or they prefer a different approach, like Slow and steady wins the race.
Guia Maria Del Prado and Jorteh Senah contributed reporting
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
New York subway riders know the sharp and familiar pain of walking to your station, five minutes late, rushing down the steps, Metrocard unsheathed -- only to find construction has closed the station for the weekend, or rerouted the train express to skip past that exact stop. Even though you could have walked to another.
Google Maps, which has incorporated subway route information for several years, will now include prominent placement of subway service updates in New York City.
Subway riders -- though not bus riders -- can see planned service disruptions in Google Maps now by clicking on the a station icon or when using Google Maps for trip planning. (HopStop has included this feature since 2008).
The information won't include real-time disruptions, including sick passengers and police action, two of the most frequent sources of delays. The MTA does not yet make real time delay information public.
Google has already integrated real time service updates in six cities (though not New York where the MTA does not make that information available), and caters to non-car owners with biking and walking directions.
Today's update is yet another step by Google to court gadget-addicted transit riders as a rivalry for customer loyalty with Apple intensifies. Apple recently dropped Google Maps from its latest iOS operating system, and now offers its own mapping software, which to the chagrin of transit advocates means there is no longer built-in transit routing software on iPhones.
Other smaller companies already integrate the MTA's published service change information in transit trip planning. HopStop, for instance, takes those service changes into account when suggesting the fastest subway or bus route. "We will never route you through a route that has a planned service change in it," HopStop CEO Joe Meyer tells Transportation Nation. "We dynamically re-route users around those planned service changes in real-time."
Google will still route you through a station with a planned service change, but now the Google directions will also display the service alerts. So, they will suggest that you go to a closed station while also telling you the station is closed, so you can search for alternate routes.
As we've reported before, Google's updates on transit mapping is news because it places subway information in front of a massive audience: one billion monthly users. Drivers already have a bevy of GPS guided automobile trip planning tools built into cars. Seeing parallel transit info with prominent placement helps facilitate making better choices between modes of transportation, where there is a choice.
The information was already out there before in this case. Planned service change information is posted on the MTA's website, but now it is placed one click away from where millions of local travelers already check right when they are deciding how to make a trip: car or subway. Making a subway trip easier, means more people will do it, which is why transit agencies around the country are investing in making more data publicly available.
Google won't say what other cities will have integration of planned service changes next. The addition of new cities is almost certain, but the timing depends on how local transit agencies make data available. London already has service information and then some. Olympic fans taking the tube this week can see unplanned delays too, in real-time. That's because Transport For London makes real-time data available to Google, something New York's MTA is still unable to do.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY -- WNYC) UPDATED New York's MTA will add five new bus routes, restore one route, extend 13 existing bus routes and add midday, night or weekend service on 11 bus routes in all five boroughs. The temporary extension of the G subway line to Church Avenue during reconstruction of the Smith/9th Street station will be made permanent.
Full list here.
In all, the service enhancements add new routes to rapidly growing neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Dumbo, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard (home to Steiner movie studios) where new housing and warehouses have been added to the city at a rapid clip. Manhattan's Far West Side, the South Bronx, and Brooklyn's East New York will also get brand new routes.
As unusual as the service additions are in a national environment where transit service is being routinely cut, they don't fully restore service to the level it was two years ago, before the NY MTA cut two train routes and dozens of bus lines, the biggest cuts in a generation.
In addition, Metro-North Railroad will enhance service on the Hudson, Harlem and New Haven l with increased half-hourly frequency. West of the Hudson, a new round-trip peak train will be added on the Pascack Line.
The Long Island Rail Road will provide increased service from Ronkonkoma every 30 minutes on weekdays after the morning rush and during some weekend periods. Extra trains will accommodate increased rider demand on the Long Beach, Port Jefferson and Montauk branches. Trains from Atlantic Terminal will also be extended until 2 a.m.
Brooklyn is getting two new bus routes -- including one along the fast-growing Williamsburg waterfront and another connecting Dumbo, Downtown Brooklyn, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, home to Steiner movie studio
Services will be also restored on the following routes:
Bx13, Bx34, B2, B4, B24, B39, B48, B57, B64, B69, X27, X17, M1, M9, M21, Q24, Q27, Q30, Q36, Q42, Q76, S76, S93, X1, X17
Thursday, July 19, 2012
(Soterios Johnson, New York, NY, WNYC) The new space shuttle pavilion at New York's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum opens to the public on Thursday. It will offer visitors an up-close and personal view of the space shuttle Enterprise, as well as exhibits on NASA's current missions on earth and space science, research on improving aeronautics and the rockets destined to take humans to explore the solar system.
See a slideshow of pictures from the new exhibit here.
Workers were putting the finishing touches on the pavilion, as opening day approached.
"All the graphics have been installed," said Eric Boehm, the museum's curator of aviation. "Right now, we're installing a lot of video monitors and all those shows will be test-run here the next couple days. You know, just getting everything tweaked."
The opening of the Intrepid Museum's Space Shuttle pavilion will be celebrated by a five day long Space Fest, featuring a free concert, special hands-on robotics and astronomy displays, and opportunities to meet former and current astronauts, many of whom have ties to the New York City area.
According to Boehm, visitors to the Enterprise will have much better access to this shuttle compared to the other shuttles on display at other museums.
"We've kind of propped her up a little higher," Boehm said. "The temporary structure kind of surrounds the shuttle, so really the best views will be right underneath and right around the sides of her. So, the public will get all around."
The shuttle and its exhibits are currently housed in a huge white inflatable structure on the Intrepid's flight deck, where it will remain for the next couple of years as the museum plans and builds a separate permanent structure to house the Enterprise. Boehm says when that new Space Center is completed, it will be a monument to the shuttle program, NASA and New York City.
Enterprise was NASA's first space shuttle, but it never actually went into space. It was built as a prototype to perform test flights and landings. Nonetheless, the museum considers it an important acquisition.
"We look at the Enterprise as really the test vehicle that made the rest all possible, that made all the space exploration possible with the space shuttle program,” said Matt Woods, the Intrepid Museum's senior vice president of operations. “Without Enterprise, you never would have gotten further with the program.”
The arrival of Enterprise in New York was a year in the making. It had been on display at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center outside Washington D.C., where it was the collection's centerpiece. On April 27, Enterprise was transported to New York's Kennedy Airport on the back of NASA's specially-modified Boeing 747 jetliner.
Before landing, the plane performed a dramatic low-altitude fly-over of its new hometown, passing by landmarks including the Statue of Liberty, the World Trade Center and the Intrepid itself. Then, in June, the shuttle was taken by barge to the Intrepid Museum, where it was hoisted on the museum's flight deck by crane.
With the space shuttle program's retirement in 2011, all of the surviving shuttles found homes at museums across the country. The Discovery’s new home is the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum outside nation's capitol. Shuttle Endeavor is in Los Angeles at the California Science Center. The Atlantis is at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.
Monday, July 16, 2012
(Jorteh Senah -- WNYC) New Jersey Transit officials are cracking down on counterfeit tickets. Weekly and monthly passes will now feature an anti-counterfeit device, which can only be detected by the transit staff's special UV scanners.
NJT Executive Director James Weinstein says counterfeiting costs the agency up to $3 million a year in losses. The NJT spent $80,000 to implement the anti-counterfeit measure.
NJT Police Department Chief of Police Christopher Trucillo said with advances in printing technology, tickets were being forged throughout the NJT system, most notably on rail and train vehicles.
"I think it's an opportunistic crime and it, quite frankly, was easy,” Trucillo said. “And what we've done internally is close that gap, it's not so easy now. Through the use of simple technology like the hologram system we’re very easily now able to identify fraudulent tickets.”
Now, when a ticket is scanned by a NJT employee, a hologram will appear under the UV lights, and if it doesn’t the police will be instructed to further inspect the ticket at the next station stop. Passengers with counterfeit tickets in their possession will be arrested and, if found guilty, could face up to 18 months in prison or a $10,000 fine.
Trucillo says the measure is just the first step of an ongoing fight against fare beating, noting counterfeiters would undoubtedly adapt to the new technology.
“It doesn’t end there because every time you put a barrier up people are going to now look to be creative and try and go around that barrier,” Trucillo said. “So we’re going to have to be on our toes and continue to look and be proactive in trying to circumvent this.”
The hologram will be changed each month and conductors and drivers on NJ Transit trains, buses and the light rail system now have small flashlights they'll use to scan tickets and monthly passes to check for the holograms.
With the Associated Press
Thursday, July 12, 2012
By Kathleen Horan : Reporter, WNYC News
The price of taking a cab will be going up in the fall.
New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission voted Thursday to approve a fare hike that would increase the cost of a ride by 17 percent.
The TLC estimates that the average fare of $10.44 would rise to $12.21 after the increase is expected to go into effect in September. The plan increases the mileage and waiting charges, but not the base fare of $2.50.
The flat fee between Manhattan and Kennedy Airport would jump from $45 to $52 and the surcharge to/or from Newark Liberty International Airport would also rise from $15 to $17.50.
Commissioner David Yassky said even though New Yorkers will be paying more, they also realize it’s the right time. “Most passengers that I talked to understand that after six years it’s only reasonable to increase the taxi fare,” Yassky commented.
Six commissioners, including Yassky, voted to approve the hike, two voted no, and one abstained.
Cabbies attending the meeting cheered as they learned the measure they fought hard for was passed.
They were also were pleased by several other aspects of the proposal, including replacing the 5 percent-per-swipe credit card fees with a flat $10.00 fee per shift charge and establishing a driver heath fund.
There had been much angling behind the scenes by large taxi fleet owners who said they also deserved an increase in leasing rates because their costs were also rising. Borough Commissioners from Staten Island, Queens and Brooklyn appeared to agree with them when they spoke and voted against the plan. Staten Island Commissioner Elias Arout described giving drivers a raise and not the garages “lopsided.”
Michael Woloz, a spokesman with the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, no stranger to litigating with the city, said they’re reviewing their options. “Time and time again when the TLC has passed unlawful rules we have fought them and the courts have affirmed our position,” Woloz said.
But Bhairavi Desai, head of the drivers group Taxi Workers Alliance, said not having to share the increase with rich medallion owners was a triumph. “We just defeated the 1 percent. We don’t have their money, their lobbyists, or their P.R. people,” a tearful Desai said. ”Today is evidence that working people can still win in this society.”
The commission said going forward, it would consider lease and fare increases every odd numbered year so that neither side of the industry had to wait so long to for an increase again.
Fares last went up in 2006 when waiting time charges increased. The last time overall cab fees rose was 8 years ago, when a 26 percent increase passed.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
By Kathleen Horan : Reporter, WNYC News
The increase, if approved later this week, would increase charge per mile but the $2.50 base rate would stay the same. The flat fare to and from JFK Airport would also jump from $45 to $52.
Speaking to a room mostly of fare-hike backers during a hearing Monday, TLC Commissioner David Yassky said he supports the measure, which would be the first time in six years that fares have increased.
"The price of a loaf of bread has gone up. A gallon of milk has gone up. Certainly, the price of a gallon of gasoline has gone way up, and I think that taxi passengers understand they have to pay for some of that,” Yassky said.
But approval of the plan isn’t a done deal. Just two of the commission’s nine TLC commissioners appeared at the hearing, and medallion owners have been angling behind the scenes.
At least one borough Commissioner, Frank Carone of Brooklyn, has said he’d vote against the proposal as it stands now because the increase doesn't meet the guidelines for rules that govern fare increases.
But the head of the Taxi Worker Alliance, Bhairavi Desai, said the wait has been too long.
“The idea that hard-working people are earning 25 percent less today than what they earned in 2006 is absolutely unacceptable,” Desai said. “After 12 long hours behind a wheel, collectively serving over a half a million people, there’s no question taxi drivers deserve to make a livable income.”
Fleet owners complained the fare proposal leaves them out. The TLC isn't considering increasing the amount garages can charge drivers for renting the taxi and medallion—otherwise known as lease caps.
Michael Woloz, spokesman for the fleet group the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, urged the commission to consider their rising costs too. He said the price of maintaining a garage is expensive.
“(To) have tow truck operators, gas stations and mechanics that work 24 hours a day to make sure New Yorkers’ taxi service is that best in the world—that costs money” Woloz said.
He said a 19 percent increase to both fares and lease caps would be more equitable.
But, according to TLC figures, fleets can make about $48,650 per medallion, meaning a 200-cab fleet could make more than $9 million a year, which the TLC doesn’t consider a hardship.
The TLC is scheduled to vote on the plan this Thursday.
Monday, July 09, 2012
By Kathleen Horan : Reporter, WNYC News
(New York, NY -- WNYC) By the end of the summer, the cost of a taxi trip may be more expensive.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission is poised to vote this week on the first taxi fare hike in six years. The proposed increase would boost fares by 17 percent.
Cab driver Badr Battaoui, 29, said the daily cost of leasing the taxi and medallion, rising gas prices and 5 percent drivers are charged per credit card transaction add up.
“The bills are expensive,” he said during a short break from his 10-hour shift at the corner of Second Avenue and 1st Street. “I'm not going to tell you that I'm poor, but I don't save up that much, you know? I have student loans. My wife has student loans. We have kids."
Cab drivers are also hoping that the TLC will end high credit card fees and institute a driver health fund, which the city is considering for the first time.
Veteran cabbie Brij Jihingen, who has chronic illnesses such as diabetes, said he has been waiting 25 years for a health fund that would set aside 6 cents per ride.
"I have sugar, blood cholesterol and blood pressure-- you name it I have it,” said Jihingen, who, like many of his fellow drivers, does not have health insurance.
A health fund, he said, would show the city values its taxi drivers.
"Because we are working for the city as well… you can see a normal person's health and a taxi driver’s health -- you can recognize a taxi driver from a distance...here's a cab driver coming.”
Taxi passengers have mixed feelings about the proposed increase.
John Salvo, who runs a Soho art gallery and lives in New Jersey, said comparatively taxis are cheaper in New York City than many other cities like San Francisco and Las Vegas.
"They actually do a pretty good job and it’s a pretty fair bargain so perhaps rates should go up a bit,” he said.
Gayle Brown, who lives in Manhattan, said she rides her bike most places and takes cabs only when she’s wearing heels or heading to or from the airport. But she feels for the drivers.
“Well, everybody is pinching and food is going up, everything is going up”, she said. “I don't blame people for trying. Cab drivers aren't rich. You can see that.”
Of course, not all customers are on board.
Sherri Lynn Graham from the Bronx doesn’t think drivers don't deserve it.
“I think it’s crazy because they're not polite people sometimes, and they don't stop for black people sometimes,” she said. “You know, you want an increase then you should give us the service that we need.”
Also being considered is the elimination of the per-swipe fee of 5 percent cabbies must pay on credit cards, and instituting a flat $9-per-shift charge instead. Fleet owners vehemently oppose the proposal.
Michael Woloz, spokesman for the fleet organization the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade said “the $9-a-shift increase is not an increase at all—also, it’s far less than the 5 percent.”
Woloz said he thought the proposal was a punishment to medallion owners who are currently pursuing a lawsuit against the city to block a plan that would allow livery cars to accept street hails.
While drivers are hoping for a fare hike with no increase in the lease rates, many longtime passengers, like Gina Cecala, 80, of Manhattan are ambivalent about paying more for a ride.
"Dollar more, dollar less — don't bother me, beats walking,” said Cecala, who takes cabs several times a week. “They want it, they get it. That's it.”
The TLC is holding a public hearing on the fare proposal Monday and is expected to vote on the measure this Thursday.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
By Kate Hinds
For such a short highway, the fifty-year old Sheridan Expressway generates a lot of unhappiness.
"I don’t even know if you could call it an expressway," said Elena Conte, an organizer at the Pratt Center for Community Development. "It’s a fragment. It’s a mile and a quarter long."
It was planned by Robert Moses, whose original idea was to continue it through the Bronx Zoo. But local residents – not to mention the zoo and the New York Botanical Garden – opposed an extension and, in the 1970s, those plans were dropped.
But some Bronx residents have never made peace with even an abbreviated expressway. Activists, working together as the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance, have for years been working to tear the highway down. In 2006, WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein went up to Bronx with the Pratt Center’s Joan Byron.
"There are three schools right on the expressway," said Byron. "So by redeveloping this as residential and parkland, those schools would have a green connection right across to the river." (A video of the plan is below.)
One of the supporters of this tear-down is Bronx congressman José Serrano. Two years ago he secured a $1.5 million federal grant to study three different options for the Sheridan: keep it, modify it, or take it down altogether. "The initial agreement we had, the understanding we had, was that they were going to look at everything," he said.
"What I’m concerned about, what the community is upset about, what we’re all upset about, is that they immediately took off the table the possibility of full removal of the Sheridan," said Serrano. "We just think that’s totally unfair and improper."
But as much as some wanted the highway gone, others say it's a vital piece of the road transportation network.
"Well, we were completely dead set against that and have been since the dawn of time," said Matthew D’Arrigo. He's co-president of the Hunts Point Market, the massive food distribution center located off the expressway.
"Without the Sheridan," he said, "a thousand trucks a night would have just one way to get to this market."
He says the market hasn’t been shy about making it known that taking down the Sheridan could jeopardize its ability to do business – and the thousands of jobs it brings to the Bronx.
"Everybody. Everybody. Everybody knows our position on that," he said.
Right now, the market is in the middle of negotiations with the city for a long-term lease. After this weekend, if it doesn’t reach a deal with New York, Hunts Point Market can start talking to other places. Like New Jersey.
Privately, officials told WNYC that fear of losing the market prompted the city to drop the removal option.
But recent a press conference in the Bronx, Mayor Bloomberg said the decision was driven by data, not politics. "All of the traffic studies show that it would not be feasible to do that," he said.
Predictions that losing a highway would cause traffic hell have been wrong before. Sam Schwartz – also known as Gridlock Sam – worked for the city DOT in 1973, when part of the then-elevated lower portion of the West Side Highway collapsed. In a 2010 interview with WNYC, he described what happened.
"People panicked," he said. "They thought that was Armageddon. They thought that was the end."
It wasn’t the case. Traffic on some roadways did go up. “We had trouble tracing one-third of the people and it wasn’t that they weren’t coming in," Schwartz said. "When we looked at transit, transit went up. We had the same number of people coming in, but they weren’t coming by car.”
Schwartz wouldn’t comment specifically on the Sheridan, but cities like Milwaukee, San Francisco and Portland all say they’ve seen big economic and environmental benefits when urban highways have been torn down.
New York City DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan called that comparison flawed.
"I think you know the Bloomberg administration has been very innovative when it comes to traffic engineering," she said. "But in this instance this particular option didn’t work -- but that doesn’t mean other options can’t work here and we’re going to continue to explore them."