THE COMMUTE: I have often been critical of MTA route planning. Last week I asked what faulty methodology resulted in truncating the B4 at Coney Island Hospital on weekends, middays and evenings when service was cutback in 2010. The original plan was to truncate the line at all times until I provided data showing that the route was well utilized on weekdays at 2:30 p.m., with seated or nearly seated loads at Ocean Parkway and Neptune Avenue. Despite that data, the MTA still decided to reroute the bus from Neptune to Avenue Z where it was already served by the B36. That decision was rescinded two weeks ago.
Archive for the tag 'op-eds'
Our open thread yesterday kicked off with a look at the redistricting process, which seems to be pitting local Russian-Americans against local Orthodox Jews for influence in the 48th Councilmanic District, currently represented by Michael Nelson. We very briefly reflected, with a dose of sarcasm, about the role race, ethnicity and religion plays in the process. That post elicited the following e-mail from Councilman Lew Fidler, who represents the neighboring 46th District:
Race and ethnicity, though not religion, are an integral part of redistricting, like it or not. In fact, federal law makes it so.
Kings County is a jurisdiction covered by the Federal Voting Rights Act. Redistricters are compelled to ensure that protected classes of minority voters – such classes are specified in the statute – do not lose maximal representation when district lines are drawn. (We are a Voting Rights County based upon discriminatory voting patterns from long, long ago.)
Southern Brooklyn has been ripped apart in both council redistricting (by the commission) and congressional redistricting (by the federal court) in large part due to the Voting Rights Act as applied to the unique demographics of Brooklyn.
There is no venal intent here… let me explain.
Central Brooklyn, which is the hub of minority (“Voting Rights”) districts, has shrunk in relative population. In order to maintain these districts as minority districts under the law, the non-minority population must be manipulated and integrated into minority districts; not so much as to shift the numbers to make the district non-minority, but enough to get the district up to a full population. Naturally, it is those neighborhoods with non-minority populations that are adjacent to the minority districts that get dragged into them.
For example, that is why the 45th District currently represented by Jumaane Williams, short on minority population, reached south into the non-minority neighborhoods of Flatbush/Midwood for its additional population. In fact, this does do violence to the neighborhood integrity of that community, and for these voters, it is grossly unfair.
But, to be clear, it is not because the redistricting commission had a conscious plan to “screw” Flatbush or any particular religious community. They are straining to find a way to comply with the Voting Rights Act.
A Federal Court Master drew the congressional lines. The same mechanics resulted in Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay being drawn as vestigial parts into the district “represented” by Congresswoman Yvette Clarke.
Similarly with those south of us and in Howard Beach, who were drawn into Congressman Hakeem Jeffries’ district.
My view is that the Voting Rights Act needs to be reformed to reflect modern realities while maintaining its protections against discriminatory practices. There needs to be greater flexibility when a constituency recedes as part of the relative population of a county. For the first time that I am aware of since Kings County became a Voting Rights county, some communities (think Fort Greene) are going from being minority communities to non-minority communities. The law needs to be able to reflect those challenges.
The local argument that Ned has reported on is in fact caused by the application of the Voting Rights Act. Therefore, ethnicity will inevitably and inextricably be a part of the conversation for better or for worse.
- Lew from Brooklyn
P.S. - Of course, Southern Brooklyn was also brutalized by the State Senate lines. That victimization had nothing whatsoever to do with the Voting Rights Act. That was pure political partisan greed on the part of the State Senate Republicans, who carved up our neighborhoods in the most venal redistricting plan most of us have ever seen since the days of Elbridge Gerry.
THE COMMUTE: The DOT gets an ‘Incomplete.’
Reason One: As of January 10, the Ocean Avenue Footbridge still has not reopened, although the scheduled completion date for repairs was the end of 2012.
Reason Two: Although new bus stops and signage for the restored B4 were in place by January 6, the first date of operation, the old signs for bus stops formerly located on Avenue Z between Ocean Parkway and East 14th Street were still not removed as of January 10.
THE COMMUTE: Most New Yorkers do not notice the sign in the station booths explaining the fare, except perhaps to check the price of a seven- or 30-day pass. However, to a tourist, it is essential that this sign be clear and self-explanatory. They were clear until the MTA discontinued MetroCards for a one-way subway trip and replaced them with “SingleRide Tickets,” available only at MetroCard vending machines, costing an additional 25 cents at the time of the last fare increase.
Ilya Novofastovsky is the founding partner of Novo Law Firm, P.C., a former New York City administrative law judge and community liaison to Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz. This piece was originally written in early October and revised shortly after Superstorm Sandy, but appears apt today after U.S. House Republicans held the Sandy aid package hostage in a partisan showdown.
People often turn to me for answers.
To succeed, beyond knowledge and facts, I – a lawyer – have to connect with clients, judges and jurors. Garry Spence called it reaching the “heart zone.” So, one of the ongoing conversations at my law firm is about human nature and what people find authentic.
Politicians are great at using human nature to come into power. Yet, they seem to be failing us. So, what are serious policy-makers missing from their approach?
Our best and brightest commit spectacular miscalculations. When the Soviet Union collapsed, America sent economists who disregarded corruption and social mistrust. When Iraq fell, America asked its military to build democracy at a point of a gun, oblivious to cultural realities. As our financial system collapsed, the regulators insisted that individuals act rationally and that the human factor can be quantified, grouped, and amassed to a dizzying scale without altering its nature.
The lessons continue, but we still leave the emotional and subconscious realities out of the policy equation. In education policy, there is no mention that learning requires real relationships between teachers and students. As decades of education reform reshuffled money, tests and bureaucratic controls, we keep being disappointed. Policy is disconnected from passion, which we intuitively know is the actual driver of learning.
THE COMMUTE: It is difficult to believe that I have been writing “The Commute” for two years. In my reflections for 2011, which seem like yesterday, I explained what I hope to accomplish in this column. I stated that my primary goal is to make a positive difference by getting people more involved in transportation issues. I think we have partially succeeded in that goal. Many of you attended Sheepshead Bay’s transit town hall last summer, which resulted in the full restoration of the B4, effective January 6, 2013. Still, much work remains to be done before Sheepshead Bay residents and those in adjacent neighborhoods have the reliable and affordable service we deserve, which takes us as quickly as possible to our destinations.
THE COMMUTE: Joe Lhota announced last Wednesday that he would resign the MTA chairmanship at the end of this year. He still has not definitely stated that he will seek the Republican nomination for mayor, but is expected to do so. He assumed the chairmanship less than one year ago after having signed a six-year contract. The previous chairman, Jay Walder, left for Hong Kong three years into his six-year term after receiving a very lucrative offer there. By returning to the MTA for three years after a more than 20-year absence, he was able to significantly increase his pension, since it is based on your last three years of service. Now Lhota, who served as deputy mayor under former mayor, Rudolph Guiliani, is taking advantage of his popularity as a result of Hurricane Sandy to run for higher political office.
Why should anyone believe any promises made by the next permanent MTA chairman? Promises have already been made that there will be no more service cuts resulting from future budget deficits, and expenses as a result of Hurricane Sandy will not affect the fare. A new chairman is no longer bound to those promises and can always state that circumstances have changed and he didn’t make those promises. Also, riders will be skeptical of any new promises made by the next permanent chairman. After all, how long will he hold that position?
Earlier this week, we ran a summary of a New York Post story claiming that State Senator David Storobin doled out salary hikes to staffers just after losing his election bid for the Super Jewish district. Storobin, who came to office in June only to see his district drawn out of existence by redistricting, will be out of a job come January 1, and the story alleges that the local pol was rewarding his supporters after the electoral defeat. Storobin sent the following unsolicited letter to Sheepshead Bites:
On December 16, Candice Giove of the New York Post ran a story that your blog picked up which claimed that I “lavish raises on staffers.” The journalist purposely ran an article with false information after it was explained to her because she did not want to allow facts to get in the way of her doing a story.
Pinny Ringel got a pay raise because he was promoted to the position of the Chief of Staff after the previous one was fired. Since I only took office on June 4, I did not know who was good and who was bad. As a result, several people got fired and several others promoted. But the net result for the taxpayer was the payroll actually going down!
If you look at the amount of money spent by the New York State Senators since the day I took office, I spent a smaller percentage of the staffing budget I was allotted than anyone else, saving taxpayer money.
THE COMMUTE: I previously wrote about the MTA’s bias against buses and their preference for the subways. Legible bus maps for all boroughs were not available until the early 1980s. Buses were harder hit than subways in the 2010 service cutbacks. However, perhaps the most obvious example is that, for 40 years, little has been done to solve the pervasive problem of bus bunching, the bus rider’s chief complaint.
Bus tracking systems have been promised since 1980 to remedy this problem. In fact, a trial system was installed around that time in the then-newly constructed Queens Village depot but was quickly dismantled due to union objections that “Big Brother” was watching. The Transport Workers Union (TWU) was more powerful back then and the MTA didn’t want to antagonize them, fearing a strike.
That system was not GPS-based and was referred to as a bus locator system — and it worked! It let managers know where buses were within a quarter-mile so they could be better regulated. Plans were underway to expand it system-wide to minimize bus bunching.
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.