Source: (vincent desjardins) / Flickr
THE COMMUTE: About a week before Hurricane Sandy, I got a delightful surprise in the form of an email from a senior MTA executive who worked at the Chicago Transit Authority earlier in his career complimenting me on my series, “A Tale of Two Cities: Chicago and New York.” [Part 1, Part 2]. He also corrected my erroneous hypothesis that, at one time, the Loop had more than two tracks. It appears that there were provisions for additional tracks, but they were never constructed.
Sometimes when you criticize, complain, or try to make suggestions, you get the impression that no one is listening, especially when facing a large bureaucracy. It is easy to forget that these bureaucracies are not objects, but human beings.
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Source: Antonio Martínez López / Flickr
THE COMMUTE: Last week, I wrote that fewer than 50 people showed up at the Brooklyn fare hike hearing, held the same day as the nor’easter, which possibly explains the low turnout. However, how do you also account for the low turnouts in Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens?
Approximately 120 people, including myself, attended the Manhattan hearing, held in an auditorium that could have accommodated at least 10 times the number of participants. Only approximately 30 attended the Bronx hearing. The Queens hearing was so sparsely attended, that there was a break before the 8:00 p.m. concluding time to allow for more speakers to arrive.
Even the elected officials seemed to boycott these hearings. In the Bronx, only Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz of Riverdale spoke. In the Manhattan, former mayoral aspirant Scott Stringer — who has now decided to enter the race for NYC Comptroller instead — testified. This is a marked contrast to the 2010 service cut hearings, which were so widely attended by the public and elected officials that many intending speakers, such as Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo, left after two or three hours waiting their turn. That Brooklyn hearing concluded at 11:30 p.m. So what happened this time?
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Photo by Erica Sherman
THE COMMUTE: If you did not attend the Brooklyn Transit Fare Hike Hearing held at the Marriott Hotel in Downtown Brooklyn last Monday because of the nor’easter, you have another chance. Another hearing will be held in Manhattan tomorrow evening from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Registration begins at 4:00 p.m. You also can pre-register on line here.
The Brooklyn hearing should have been rescheduled. Seniors and the disabled should not have been expected to brave the nor’easter, especially without full subway service. The MTA did not care, however. Fewer than 50 people showed up, one of the lowest turnouts ever. “I didn’t hear anyone calling for not having the election,” MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said. “We have to continue. We have to move forward.”
Last week I complimented Chairman Lhota on how well the MTA handled Hurricane Sandy and how well the agency works in times of crises. They were even considerate enough to provide two days of free fares. Well it looks like the crisis is over as far as the MTA is concerned, because it’s back to business as usual. A typically heartless MTA was unconcerned that residents in Sea Gate and Gerritsen Beach, who had lost their homes, had higher priorities than to brave a nor’easter in order to attend a hearing right now.
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Source: MTAPhotos / Flickr
THE COMMUTE: MTA funding always seems to be in the news. Another fare hike is scheduled for January 2013. The MTA’s continuing money woes are primarily due to the large debt it has to repay on the money it borrows through its bonds. Repealing a portion of the payroll tax, reduced state funding, and the MTA’s own inefficiencies did not help either.
Last January, I wrote how the MTA has the opportunity to refinance a portion of its debt at lower interest rates. It was also revealed at that time that whenever the MTA takes on debt, it must also pay the state a fee of $8.40 for every $1,000 it borrows. The fees can be substantial considering how much the MTA needs to borrow. These fees may have once made sense to discourage unnecessary borrowing, but do not make sense today with very limited federal, state, and city aid. The Staten Island Advance has a well-written editorial on the subject.
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THE COMMUTE: About 25 bus riders asked questions of the MTA during the NYC Transit Riders Council Bus Forum last Wednesday before an audience of approximately 100.
Disabled riders were given priority and spoke for the first 45 minutes. Seniors were also adequately represented. Complaints ranged from buses skipping stops and stops eliminated on Manhattan crosstown routes at key transfer points, to those about bus drivers and service cutbacks of 2010. Several seniors complained that Select Bus Service (SBS) is inconvenient for them because the bus stops are too far apart. Only a few riders praised SBS as speeding their trip. The SBS route receiving the most criticism was the M34. One person stated that he is a regular user of it and it saves him a whopping 30 seconds. He added that because of the money spent on it, none is left for bus improvements in the outer boroughs. A question was asked why there are no bus stops along Ocean Parkway at Avenue Y and Avenue Z for the B1. I responded for the MTA that it was a Department of Transportation (DOT) decision to omit those stops which the MTA wanted, since I attended those discussions with DOT in 1978.
Unlike MTA hearings where Board members seem generally disinterested and do not reply to questions being asked, an attempt was made to answer every question and a promise was made to investigate ones that could not be answered. Andrew Albert, chair of the NYC Transit Riders Council, did a good job moderating and most of those on the panel listened intently and constantly took notes. The two-minute time limit was not really enforced, although speakers were advised to quickly conclude their remarks if they ran over. The meeting lasted 30 minutes longer than scheduled in order to give everyone who signed up an opportunity to speak.
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The mosque in February. (Photo by nolastname)
A letter from Borough President Marty Markowitz – dated January 4, 2012 – has surfaced, indicating his office may be sympathetic to Bay People’s zoning challenges against the Sheepshead Bay Islamic Center, a.k.a. the Voorhies Avenue mosque at 2812 Voorhies Avenue.
Keep reading for context, and view the letter.
Photo by nolastname
It’s been a while since we’ve had a proper update on the Sheepshead Bay mosque (2812 Voorhies Avenue). Last we heard, the opponents of the mosque, Bay People, lost their zoning challenge against the construction, but vowed to push forward with their lawsuit against the mosque’s backers (who, it should be noted, have filed a countersuit).
As the picture above illustrates, construction at the site has been moving along swiftly. The steel and cinder block frame is just about done on the first two stories, and work has started on the third (and final) floor. The third floor will be recessed from the front.
For what it’s worth, several readers have sent us e-mails noting that it’s not nearly as big as they expected.
That hasn’t soothed the fears of Bay People members, though. The opposition distributed an informational packet to media and local leaders in January summarizing their complaints and compiling letters to and from elected officials, attorneys, city agencies, et cetera. The packet also blasted some leaders that they felt were ignoring their concerns.
Though the group insists in the document that their concerns are about traffic, parking and quality of life, they also cast doubt on the background of the organizers.
“The organization behind the project ‘has a troubling history of associates with radical organizations and individuals that promote terrorism, anti-Semitist and reject Israel’s right to exist,’” they write.
The complete packet can be seen at the end of this post.
Keep reading to see how the mosque’s backers are fighting back.
The following announcement from the Office of City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn was forwarded to us by our friend, Ed Jaworski, president of the Marine-Madison-Homecrest Civic Association. If memories of abandoned cars, a blizzard-crippled transit system, stranded ambulances, unplowed thoroughfares, and six-foot-high snowbanks make your blood run cold, that should be impetus enough to attend tomorrow’s hearing. Pertinent details, such as date, time, location and contact information, have been bolded:
Dear New Yorker,
Next Wednesday, November 30th, the City Council’s Committees on Public Safety and Sanitation and Solid Waste Management will be holding a joint oversight hearing on the borough-based snow plans and citywide winter emergency protocols issued by the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), respectively.
Copies of the DSNY borough-based snow plans are available at http://www.nyc.gov/html/dsny/html/snow_plans_mapping/snowplans.shtml, and the OEM Snow Preparedness and Response Report is available at http://www.nyc.gov/html/oem/downloads/pdf/2011snowreport.pdf.
We know snow removal and other snow-related issues are on many people’s mind, especially as we edge closer to winter, and anyone who wishes to is more than welcome to attend this hearing.
The hearing is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. in the 14th Floor Committee Room at 250 Broadway in Lower Manhattan.
If you would like to testify, please be sure to register with the sergeant-of-arms on the 14th Floor. Due to increased building security procedures, please bring identification and allot some extra time for entry through the building lobby.
You can also email your written remarks to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll be sure to forward them to the committee’s staff.
If you have any questions about Wednesday’s hearing, please feel free to contact Jarret Hova in the Council’s Infrastructure Division. He can be reached by phone at (212) 788-9104 or email at email@example.com.
Thanks and have a wonderful weekend.
Christine C. Quinn
Peter F. Vallone, Jr.
Public Safety Committee
Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Committee
The site of the proposed mosque at 2812 Voorhies Avenue.
Bay People, the opponents of the proposed Sheepshead Bay mosque on Voorhies Avenue, has lost a zoning challenge that was key to their strategy in delaying or halting construction on the grounds.
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Poll site in Manhattan Beach on September 13
Fidler went on the attack yesterday, skewering Board of Elections staffers during a hearing to review their performance for the September 13 race. We heard about a lot of confusion from readers at poll sites, especially in Manhattan Beach where registration books went missing for several hours, before showing up around the same time that inspectors did. We also got a number of calls and e-mails from people concerned because they cast two votes – the target of Fidler’s attack. According to City Hall News:
“The process used in the Ninth Congressional District was an unmitigated disaster,” Fidler said. “It was the least democratic process I’ve ever witnessed.” Fidler said that on Election Day, Brooklyn voters in the congressional district had to cast two separate ballots, in two separate rooms, with two separate groups of poll works. One ballot was for the Congressional special election between Bob Turner and David Weprin, and the other ballot was for the primary election in Brooklyn Civil Court races. Fidler said many voters were unaware that they had to vote twice. And not only was the process twice as expensive as it could have been, but Fidler contends it led to a “monumental” under-vote in Brooklyn Civil Court races. Responding to Fidler’s critique that the Board was “stuck on stupid,” BOE general counsel Steve Richman says the process was the only one the city’s electronic voting equipment could handle.
What do you think? Did you have any problems voting on September 13? Did the two ballots confuse you?
[via The Brooklyn Politics]