THE COMMUTE: I received an interesting e-mail the other day stating that my service request from 311 (C1-1-721913901 Street Sign – Damaged) has been closed. The automatic reply continued: “The Department of Transportation has completed the request or corrected the condition.”
However, I never reported a damaged street sign. In January 2012, when I reported on the new database unveiled by DOT where you can check parking regulations on any given street, I checked my own block and the database stated there were no parking restrictions. That was not true. When I reported the database error on the website, the complaint was forwarded to 311, and I received an auto-generated reply thanking me for reporting a damaged street sign and that it will be investigated.
At the time, I did not think it was a big deal because perhaps there was no code for reporting missing database information and the only way the request could be processed was to enter another code. I was willing to give DOT and 311 the benefit of the doubt. Now, five months after reporting the defect, I learn that the proper information still has not been entered into the database although the case is now closed out.
I decided to check a few more blocks and found that any street with a bend is non-searchable. Guess if I report that, I will get another confirmation for a damaged street sign. So why bother? Why are 311 reports taken erroneously and closed out although the reported problem is never addressed? Also, the closeout report allows no opportunity for a response. There have been numerous reports on the failings of 311 and the system has been criticized for statistics not being made public. Why are our elected officials doing nothing about this?
In that same January article, I also reported on the confusion DOT is causing by telling drivers on its website that it is legal to park and block curb cuts at “T” intersections without traffic signals, causing them to get summonses and preventing wheelchairs from accessing the streets? I discussed the absurdity of this, but no elected official has seen fit to either clarify the law or ask DOT to change the confusing information it provides.
Our elected officials are also content with the travesty of turning Coney Island’s historic Riegelmann Boardwalk into a cement walk. The Department of Parks insists that a concrete strip is necessary for the heavy vehicles that use the boardwalk and made it appear that the solution reached was a compromise to those wanting a non-concrete boardwalk. I informally heard that the substructure also will be all concrete and not wood, merely placing a plastic wood substance on top of a concrete surface. That was not what was agreed to and would not provide the spring in your step that makes the boardwalk a pleasure to walk and run on if it only were properly maintained with unnecessary heavy vehicles banned.
It was also reported that the boardwalk portion between Brighton 15th Street and Coney Island Avenue will be all concrete and not just have a concrete strip. The public deserves to know what the exact plans for the Riegelmann Boardwalk are; why a large section of the Rockaway Boardwalk is being replaced with wood after Parks said that wood is no longer feasible for boardwalks, and why New Jersey has no plans to replace any of its many boardwalks with concrete?
Why is no elected official willing to challenge the Mayor on his plans for the boardwalk? We are still paying for Mayor LaGuardia’s decision to destroy our beloved trolleys. Now future generations will be paying for Bloomberg’s destruction of the boardwalk.
Another article appeared this week about the water leaks at the newly constructed South Ferry terminal. Since its completion, the MTA has blamed Schiavone Construction, the contractor, for the numerous problems. Schiavone Construction had previously blamed the MTA. The truth according to an independent engineering consultant hired by the MTA, is that both parties are to blame. You can read more about this story here. It is also interesting to note that, although the MTA places much of the blame on the fact that the station is below the water table, the first commenter, MaximusNYC, in this Second Avenue Sagas article states:
I was just in Amsterdam, and I was impressed to see that the main metro station is directly adjacent to one of the city’s canals. In fact, one of the entrances to the station features a 1-meter-high wall, with the canal on one side, and the floor of the upper mezzanine at the same level on the other side of the wall. I saw no evidence of even a single leak. Meanwhile, the actual platforms are 2 levels further down! The Dutch know how to engineer below the water table — it’s essential for their country’s survival. Too bad we don’t take these things as seriously… and apparently keep hiring the same contractors despite their shoddy work.
The MTA has had problems with Schiavone Construction on previous contracts, yet they were hired again to do work on the Fulton Street Transit Center. Currently they are paying for repairs to the South Ferry station, but will those payments continue indefinitely, since all repairs are only temporary? Or will the MTA eventually assume the financial burden of keeping the leaks out?
Again our elected officials have remained silent. But what have they insisted the MTA do? The City Council proposed the MTA rate the condition of subway stations as it relates to litter, graffiti, rats, etc, by giving each station a letter grade as we currently do for restaurants. Exactly what is that supposed to accomplish? Will failing stations be closed? This recommendation came in response to the MTA expanding its pilot program to remove litter baskets from additional subway stations, claiming two stations are not enough to draw conclusions.
After track fires increase, the MTA will have to admit this is an ill-conceived plan. Either that or remove all litter baskets and ban food and newspapers from the system altogether. They closed virtually every subway bathroom and will not even make public a list of ones that are operational so why not also remove all litter baskets to reduce services and cut costs?
A message to our elected officials
It is time for our elected officials to stand up for the people they represent. Residents are overwhelmingly in support of a wood boardwalk, yet their wishes mean nothing. We want waste receptacles to be maintained in the subways. We want new subway stations that aren’t plagued with problems the day they open. We want a 311 system that works and reports information accurately, not closing out problems that are never addressed. We want traffic regulations that are not confusing and non-sensical. Why should blocking a pedestrian ramp or curb cut be allowed under any circumstances?
This is why we put you in office, not just to seek higher office. We already know the condition of subway stations without a letter grade. It will not prompt the MTA into action or encourage straphangers to litter less. The rats will not decide to keep out of stations because they have an A rating. City Council, what will you think of next – CEMUSA operating subway bathrooms with ads in the stalls and in front of each urinal? Hey now, that’s an idea!
The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).
Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.