THE COMMUTE: There are two schools of thought on this. One is that changes should be made incrementally as the need arises. That is known as ad-hoc planning. The other is that changes should be made using a comprehensive approach by periodically studying all the routes for deficiencies, for example, once every 10 years, by performing origin-destination surveys and using other data.
Archive for the tag 'public hearings'
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.
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?
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.
Community Board 15 decided on Monday night to table the a proposal to move the Manhattan Beach dog run, saying that the plan is still to vague for them to take a stance on.
Councilman Nelson’s chief of operations, Chaim Deutsch, brought the issue before the Board after working with the Manhattan Beach Community Group, which wants to relocate the dog run to a less visible area, and put a beautification garden in its place. Although $500,000 has already been allocated to the project, Deutsch and the Parks Department wanted to ensure the proposal has broad community support before going forward, but many residents who spoke at the meeting said they were against the plan. [Corrected]
Deutsch explained that when the dog run was fenced in approximately 15 years ago, it lacked proper drainage or any of the other amenities city dog runs have. Because of that, and inconsiderate patrons, members of the community have complained to the councilman’s office that it was unclean and often muddy.
Others who spoke in support of the proposal – largely members of the Manhattan Beach Community Group – said that users of it often came at unacceptable hours and left trash and dog feces in the park.
The councilman’s proposal is to move the dog run to a smaller location, redesign it with proper amenities – including drainage, lighting and pebbles – and turn the current location into a beatification site. The smaller location would be further subdivided to make separate pens for big and small dogs. The councilman has already allocated $500,000 for the project, but Deutsch told Sheepshead Bites that amount would only cover construction of a new dog park, not the establishment of a beautification garden.
However, many Manhattan Beach residents and dog owners spoke against the plan, airing their skepticism that the city would ever complete the job and that they’d be left without a dog run (Deutsch said he had received the Parks Department’s word that the existing run would not be eliminated until a new one was completed).
They also said that many of the problems are overblown, that users are courteous and most pick up their remains, and that there is no odor. They also took issue with shrinking the size of the park, as owners of larger dogs need the space for their canines to get exercise. Still, others, said that the money allocated should simply be used for maintenance of the dog run, for which the community has been told there is no funding, and that a “Friends of”-style group could be formed.
Members of the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association also took issue with the proposal, noting that funding had been allocated by the councilman to repair the community’s basketball courts five years ago, but that they “haven’t seen a penny” put to use.
“Believing we’re going to get this money is like believing in fairy tales,” said Al Smaldone, reading a statement from MBNA President Alan Ditchek.
They also pointed out that 75 percent of the current dog run is in the shade, making it a poor choice for a beautification site.
The Board voted overwhelmingly to table the proposal until the Parks Department or councilman could provide written plans about the proposed location, amenities, costs and design for them to better judge the project.
After the meeting, Deutsch said, “I’m happy that it was tabled because if people voted and it was politically motivated it be very immature and immoral.”
CORRECTION (9/28/2012): A statement in the second paragraph of this article has been corrected. It previously indicated that Deutsch brought the issue before the Board at the request of the Manhattan Beach Community Group. Ira Zalcman, president of the group, sent the following note to us:
The mbcg never asked Nelson or Deutsh to make a dog run presentation to Cb 15. It was Theresa Scavo who asked for the presentation. Also the mbcg never asked for this funding of one half million dollars. The space for a new dog run was chosen by Ron Biondo when he was President of mbcg and his chair of his quality of life comm Al Smaldone … Mbcg stands by biondo and Smaldone that the dog run should be moved.
While we have made the correction regarding the request for the presentation, we would like to add that we have never stated that MBCG asked for the funding – only that the project be done.
Community Board 15 will have a public hearing and vote tonight on a proposal to move the Manhattan Beach dog run from its current location – a project on which the neighborhood’s two community groups are at odds.
Out of respect for the Yom Kippur holiday on Tuesday night, Community Board 15′s monthly meeting has been bumped up to tonight at 6:00 p.m. at Kingsborough Community College’s Faculty Dining Room (2001 Oriental Boulevard).
The Manhattan Beach Community Group has decried the dog run’s current Kensington Street location as filthy, smelly and poorly maintained, asking the city to remove it. Councilman Mike Nelson has allocated $500,000 to move the dog run further away from Kensington Street and to replace the current spot with a city-maintained garden with no public access whatsoever. The MBCG’s rival, the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association, claims that they were not consulted on the project and are against the move. The new proposed location is still to be decided, but will be smaller, and subdivided into areas for large dogs and small dogs.
Nelson’s office said they will adhere to the Board’s recommendation, and the park will only go forward if the Board gives the green light.
Aside from the dog park, the Board will also hold public hearings on the following land use issues:
- 2359 East 5th Street, between Avenue W and Angela Drive – application for a special permit to all the enlargement of a single family dwelling.
- 2410 Avenue S, between East 24th Street and Bedford Avenue - application for a special permit to all the enlargement of a single family dwelling.
- 2771 Knapp Street, between Harkness Avenue and Plumb Beach Channel – application for a special permit to allow the use of an enlarged one-story building as four eating and drinking establishments.
- 1713 East 23rd Street, between Quentin Road and Avenue R - application for a special permit to all the enlargement of a single family dwelling.
- 154 Girard Street, between Hampton Avenue and Oriental Boulevard - application for a special permit to all the enlargement of a single family dwelling.
Additionally, there will be discussion of the district’s budgetary needs in advance of the city’s 2014 budget process.
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.
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.
There will be a public hearing of the New York City Water Board at 7:00 p.m., April 24, at Public School 222, 3301 Quentin Road in Marine Park, concerning a proposed seven percent increase on water rates. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.
Fiscal Year 2013’s water rate increase of seven percent is slated to take effect on July 1, 2012. According to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, if the rate hike is implemented, based on the average consumption of 80,000 gallons per year, a typical single-family homeowner will see their water and sewer bills increase from $877 per year to $939 per year.
Additionally, the average multi-family unit with metered billing will see an increase from $571 per year for each individual dwelling unit to $610 per year for each dwelling.
The hearing is open to the public. However, residents who wish to speak much register by contacting Diane Easparro at the New York City Water Board at (718) 595-3591 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You must register to speak no later than 5:00 p.m. on the day before the hearing (that’s today!) Remarks are limited to five minutes in length.
Using tonight’s State of the Borough address, Borough President Marty Markowitz is expected to revive plans to establish ferry commuter service between Manhattan and Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods including Sheepshead Bay. Markowitz’s push comes less than a year after a city study determined Southern Brooklyn unworthy of such a costly service.
Markowitz will take to the podium at Brooklyn College tonight for the 2012 State of the Borough address. The address begins at 6:45 p.m. and can be viewed live here.
According to a Daily News report, Markowitz plans to “push for the expansion of city ferry service to connect Manhattan to Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, the Canarsie Pier and the 69th Street Pier in Bay Ridge.”
If that proposal sounds familiar, it’s because it is.
Way back in 2009, the New York City Economic Development Corporation unveiled the Comprehensive Citywide Ferry Study, which identified possible landing locations for an expansion of commuter ferry services around the city and weighed the costs and benefits.
When the EDC rolled into the Sheepshead Bay – Manhattan Beach area for a public hearing on the plan, they got an earful.
“It’s romantic. It’s beautiful. It’s wonderful. But practically speaking, it’s not practical,” Bay Improvement Group President Steve Barrison said at the hearing.
Critics of the plan blasted it as an impractical way to make the commute. At an estimated 45 minutes for the trip to Manhattan, it would cost approximately $6.00 per rider, offering little incentive for those paying $2.25 for a trip of the same duration on the subway. They also worried about the effects of parking in the area, and noted that any ferry service in the area would require the Bay to be dredged.