Archive for the 'Opinion' Category

Photo by Roman Kruglov

BETWEEN THE LINES: New Yorkers warmly embraced a balmy weekend that likely thawed their chilled bodies and spirits. However, the forecast isn’t pleasant and looks like we’re in for Frigid Winter, Part Two. [Ed. – It was snowing all morning. We need this like we need holes in our heads.]

No sooner did Mother Nature tease us with a brief respite, with temperatures topping 50 degrees for three consecutive days, than we were alerted to a cold air mass heading south that will return temperatures below-freezing by mid-week.

Temperatures reached a high over the weekend not seen since it was a 55 on January 5, 2014 the day before the mercury nose-dived to a record low five degrees and frequently remained below freezing for the next six weeks.

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Bob Diamond (seated) gives one of his Atlantic Avenue tunnel tours. Photo: Steve and Sara Emry / Flickr

Bob Diamond (seated) gives one of his Atlantic Avenue tunnel tours. Photo: Steve and Sara Emry / Flickr

THE COMMUTE: If you’ve ever ventured out of Sheepshead Bay to go shopping — and why would you want to? — and visited Fairway in Red Hook, you have most likely seen three rusted Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) street cars behind the store on trolley tracks. They are there no more. After being on property owned by the O’Connell Organization for many years, a few weeks ago, company head Greg O’Connell decided to have them removed because of the serious deterioration they have undergone since Hurricane Sandy. He decided that it would be better to donate them to the Branford Electric Railway Association (BERA), which would house them at an undisclosed location and aid in the search for a permanent home. If none can be found, the cars will be scrapped for parts. The O’Connell Organization paid for the cars’ transport.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Source: Stephen Nessen / Flickr

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Source: Stephen Nessen / Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: With possibly the worst storm of the season, packed with heavy snow, sleet and rain racing up the East Coast, flights were grounded and government offices to the south of the city closed, but late last Wednesday Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of Education (DOE) decided that public schools would open the following day. Hours earlier, severe winter storm warnings and advisories had been issued from Georgia to Maine, with thousands of school districts closed ahead of the storm’s leading edge. But New York City parents went to bed dazed and confused, because public school students were expected to be in school Thursday morning.

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Second Avenue Subway construction at 83rd Street in the city. Source: Wikipedia

Second Avenue Subway construction at 83rd Street in the city. Source: Wikipedia

THE COMMUTE: It started with continual promises to construct a Second Avenue subway and the failure to complete the IND Second System. We are currently in the sixth reincarnation of the promised Second Avenue subway with voters twice approving bond issues specifically for that purpose in 1951 and in 1967. Now it is doubtful if the opening of the first three stations will even occur by the latest rescheduling to 2016.

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Today's snow, as seen from West 4th Street near Avenue T (Photo by Michael Louis)

Today’s snow, as seen from West 4th Street near Avenue T (Photo by Michael Louis)

A staffer in one of our elected officials’ offices pitched me an idea earlier today: start a registry on our website of volunteers willing to help elderly and disabled residents dig out from the snow storm.

The staffer told me that they’ve been receiving calls all morning, but that their office couldn’t do anything – including recommend a pay service, since such a recommendation from a public office would be inappropriate.

But why should I create a registry? The City of New York already has one.

It’s right here on the New York City Service website. I knew that but the staffer didn’t. Because the city has done a shoddy job publicizing it.

And, as a result, it’s totally useless at the moment. I called the most local partner listed on the website, the Brighton Neighborhood Association, and the one person in the office – who was closing up shop – said they never once had a volunteer come through it. And so I called the number at City Hall to register as a volunteer just to see how the process went – and they, too were closed.

With the number of snow storms we’ve already had in 2014, it might be time for the city to reactivate that program and make a big push. The point is to help elderly and disabled residents – both by ensuring they have a clean path to walk on, and also to prevent them from receiving fines from the city. That’s a great goal, and with virtually no cost to taxpayers.

My hope is that this post spurs a few kind, generous individuals to register for service in future snow storms, and also to get local elected officials’ offices to sign up as partners to help direct and mobilize the volunteers. It’s not unheard of – Bronx Councilman James Vacca and Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis both use their offices in this way.

I look forward to seeing our local elected officials join that list very soon, and also help in the recruitment of local volunteers. If they do, this site commits to publicizing the registry in future storms. How’s that for a deal?

The Fab Four -- John, Paul, George and Ringo -- arrive in America at JFK. Source: Wikipedia

The Fab Four — John, Paul, George and Ringo — arrive in America at JFK. Source: Wikipedia

BETWEEN THE LINES: This past Sunday night, February 9, marked the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” A record 73 million Americans — more than a third of the U.S. population and considerably higher than the first Super Bowl TV audience three years later — tuned in. Some were habitual viewers of the popular weekly variety show. A sizable segment, no doubt, watched just to see what the fuss about four British lads was. But many viewers, largely pre-teen and teenage girls, were a legion of keyed up devotees, aware of the ruckus since the Liverpool quartet’s contagious pop songs became Top 40 radio staples in the weeks before their groundbreaking, two-set performance.

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The B44 SBS debuts along Nostrand Avenue. Source: Patrick Cashin / MTA / Flickr

The B44 SBS debuts along Nostrand Avenue. Source: Patrick Cashin / MTA / Flickr

THE COMMUTE: As a result of the efforts of Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs, City Councilmembers Chaim Deutsch and Jumaane Williams, as well as pressure from North Brooklyn residents, the MTA announced on Friday that beginning in the spring, SBS stops at Avenue L and Gates Avenue will be added to the B44 route. The news came via an email from Jacobs’ office and in an article from the New York Post.

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Some seriously out of control jaywalking. Source: Brian Robinson (bhr1) / Flickr

Some seriously out of control jaywalking. Source: Brian Robinson (bhr1) / Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: Jaywalking, for those only familiar with the term from occasional segments on “The Tonight Show,” can have dire consequences. Jay Leno casually — and lawfully — “jaywalks” Los Angeles streets, seeking spontaneous responses to questions from pedestrians, which are then painstakingly edited to amuse his audience. But, the act of “jaywalking” in many cities is actually a traffic safety violation.

The term has existed for almost a century and refers to pedestrians unlawfully crossing a street at a designated crossing or at an intersection without regard for oncoming traffic. It likely became a low-level public safety ordinance after a surge of vehicular traffic, particularly in urban areas, where it has sort of evolved into a group sport.

Seasoned New York pedestrians may justify that “Don’t Walk” signals mean don’t cross when a vehicle approaches, so why not cross the street when there isn’t a vehicle in sight or, at least, a safe distance away?

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The B44 SBS debuts along Nostrand Avenue. Source: Patrick Cashin / MTA / Flickr

The B44 SBS. Source: Patrick Cashin / MTA / Flickr

THE COMMUTE: During its first week of operation, the B44 SBS was widely criticized by former B44 Limited riders for eliminated stops, unreliable, overcrowded and delayed local bus service, inadequate public information regarding the route change and longer walks to SBS stops. I covered these criticisms in my SBS series (parts 1, 2, and 3).

MTA apologists refused to hold the MTA accountable, claiming that these initial problems would be overcome as the MTA would make needed adjustments quickly. That would result in a route that would be better utilized because it would be quicker and reliable, saving time for most riders. The problem I have is we will never know that for sure since only data that supports the MTA’s success story will be shared.

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Weird anti-jay walking propaganda. Source: Wikipedia

Weird anti-jay walking propaganda. Source: Wikipedia

THE COMMUTE: This column focuses primarily on buses and subways, although we also cover issues of interest to motorists. We have discussed air travel several times, as well as transit in other cities. One subject we have not touched upon is the pedestrian. We all are pedestrians at one time or another, unless you use a scooter to get around. We have ignored pedestrians thus far because websites such as Streetsblog vehemently advocate for the rights of pedestrians and cyclists while other than chat groups, there are few if any sites advocating for bus or subway riders.

Pedestrian Safety

During the past several weeks, there has been a surge of pedestrian deaths on the Upper West Side as well as a bicycle fatality in Harlem. In fact, it seems like every day we hear of another vehicle going out of control or a pedestrian death somewhere in the city. So what is going on and what is the city doing in an effort to curb pedestrian deaths? Mayor Bill de Blasio has a plan for Vision Zero, which would reduce pedestrian deaths. The plan includes more cameras, which I have no problem with, as long as safety remains the prime focus and not revenue. When anticipated revenue from cameras becomes part of following year’s budget, then we have a problem.

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