Friday, December 28, 2007

Worst Housing Recession Ever?



The graph above comes from Calculated Risk, hands down the best economic blog, and far better analysis than I have seen in print anywhere. WSJ, NYT, The Economist, Bloomberg . . . would that your reporting had the insight that comes from CR and Tanta!

Another favorite, Professor Nouriel Roubini's RGE Monitor, opines that this housing recession may be the worst in the country's history, worse, possibly, than the Great Depression.

My own take is that this has been the biggest real estate bubble the US has ever seen, fueled by cheap, easy credit. The housing market in 2001, in my view, was just due for a mild correction. After 9/11, however, Bush and Greenspan opened the floodgates, the Fed Funds rate went as close to zero as it's ever been, and prices took off like a rocket.

I don't know that things will get as bad as the Great Depression, but this is going to be a painful correction for many.

UPDATE: Princeton Economics Professor Paul Krugman blogs at the NYT on the amazing disconnect between the costs of renting and owning in today's market. Look at this chart:If you believe this is sustainable, you are a crazy person.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ending Illegal Curb Cuts, and Self-Certification

I went to the CB6 Transportation Committee hearing last night to comment on Intro 619 and 620, which aim to crack down on illegal curb cuts. (For the record, although the committee didn't have quorum, those present overwhelmingly favored the measures).

Last night was the first time I was able to see the language of the bills (which I wholeheartedly support). Intro 619 operates by adding a clause to a sentence in Section 27-143 (which governs DOB's examination of applications and plans) to expressly forbid the commissioner to allow self-certification of curb cuts. A good start.

I would go further and end self-certification altogether. Section 27-143 includes one little sentence that has been an endless source of chicanery and malfeasance:
The commissioner may, at his or her discretion, when the application is submitted by an architect or engineer, designate portions of the examination for limited supervisory check.
This sentence allows a horror show of a DOB commissioner, for example, say, Patricia Lancaster, to abdicate responsibility for building plans to a developers hired guns.

Intro 619 would limit that power to exclude curb cuts. I would eliminate it altogether and put an end to self-certification once and for all. Chalk it up as one more miserable failure from the hand of Rudy Giuliani.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Potential New Bus Service Improvements for South Brooklyn

The MTA has announced that they kinda sorta maybe, when the moon is right and a virgin is sacrificed, MIGHT make some transit improvements to go along with the higher fares. Including this:
The changes would also create a new bus line, the M13, from the Lower East Side to East Midtown, and would extend the B71 and B77 buses from Brooklyn via the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel into Manhattan, where they would go to South Ferry.
These would be positive changes.

Michael Cairl of the Park Slope Civic Council and the Gowanus Community Stakeholders Group agrees this is a highly positive proposal, and calls on the MTA to follow through with more improvements such as
splitting the B61. I would have the "61 North" and "61 South" overlap between Jay Street and LICH, to allow people who live near the Navy Yard and work at LICH a one-seat ride. It would also afford better service along Atlantic Avenue to the waterfront. . . . . The problem with the B61 is . . . delays from street traffic and overcrowding from serving too many congestion points. . . . NYCT has addressed a similar problem by splitting the M10 into the M10 and M20; the B61 is a prime candidate for splitting. Anyone who doesn't think so should ride from LICH to the Navy Yard, and also wait for a bus at Jay Street in rush hour, to see for themselves.
One of these days I'm going to do just that. Since I ride the subway every day, I'm highly attuned to issues with the subways but not very close to the bus system. But I've been hearing a lot from our good friends in the Hook that bus service needs improvement.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

MTA Hikes Fares

Read all about it at Second Avenue Sagas. I'm disappointed, for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason is the failure of imagination this shows up in our leadership.

Why the hell didn't Bloomberg use his pull to tie congestion pricing to holding fares at the current level? It's a hard enough to swallow a carrot and stick approach, with Congestion pricing as the stick. What do transit riders get but . . . another stick! No carrots today, people.

And Spitzer. The Governor preserved the $2 fare. For who? Daytrippers and tourists, the people who are most likely to pay an increase without skipping a stride? What I'd like to see from the Governor's office is a recognition, in word and deed (and by deed, I mean money) that New York is committed to investing in transit. New York is the second greenest city in America. It's not because of our combined sewer outflows, which violate the Clean Water Act by flooding our coastal waters with raw sewage each and every time it rains. It's certainly not because of the incredible amount of electricity wasted in Times Square and elsewhere every single day. It is because we have a remarkable efficient means of moving people around the city in the form of our subways.

But the transit system has many faults, from congested lines, to crumbling infrastructure, to ADA non-compliance, to whole swaths of the city that are under served by transit. Mr. Spitzer, the City is begging for a Governor who will reverse the disastrous neglect of George Pataki. You can be that guy.

The Bill of Rights proposed by Councilmen deBlasio and Liu yesterday is a step in the right direction. But for that initiative, or indeed any initiative to get traction, we need to see real leadership from Albany and City Hall. A travel-weary city awaits.

Rant over. (for now)

Governor's Island Contest Winner?


Curbed has a post chock full of renderings by West 8, the Dutch firm that reportedly won the design competition for Governor's Island.

These renderings are miles above the ones I saw in NY Magazine this Spring/Summer. Two thumbs up if this is the route we're going. I love the topographical elements and the restored wetlands, as well as the promenade with what will be stunning harbor views.

UPDATE: Confirmed by the NYT . . . and here I was concerned it was too good to be true.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Straphangers Bill of Rights

Councilmen Bill deBlasio and John Liu held a press conference today calling on the MTA to establish a Straphangers' "Bill of Rights", including such radical ideas as reliable on-time service and attractively priced fares.

Also speaking were Dan Cantor, Executive Director of the Working Families Party, Gene Russianoff of Straphangers campaign, and yours truly. Check out the news tonight, the TV media were out in force.

My two cents:
"New York, and Brooklyn in particular, have seen a surge in population and in transit ridership, but investments in transit have not kept pace," said Gary Reilly, Brooklyn Transit Advocate. "If the MTA was as aggressive in seeking money from Albany and the Mayor's office as it is from our bus and subway riders, there wouldn't be a fare crisis. If we're to preserve our status as one of the greenest cities in America, we need Governor Spitzer to commit to state funding for mass transit that will reverse the tragic legacy of neglect left us by the Pataki administration. Can you imagine if your kid brought home a report card full of Cs and Ds, and then not only asked for but demanded a raise in allowance?"
NOTE - Having some formatting issues . . . bear with me, thanks.

Subway Riders’ Bill of Rights
1. Fares that are affordable and attract riders to use mass transit.


2. Regular, on-time subway service.


3. Immediate and real-time notification of service changes and advisories available to passengers on platforms, in train cars, and via internet and text message with accurate information.


4. Accurate and user-friendly assistance for riders to find alternative means of transportation in situations where service is interrupted.


5. Trains and platforms that are kept clean.


6. A working and understandable public address system on all platforms and in all trains, with in-car announcements alerting passengers to upcoming train stops and platform notifications informing riders of the arrival of the next train.


7. Well-trained, helpful station and train personnel to provide information and directions, as well as establish a human presence in the subways.


8. Working payphones in all stations and access to cellular phone service while on platforms.


9. An MTA website that is user-friendly and can support heavy traffic such as that which may be experienced during an emergency.


10. An environment as safe and secure as possible from crime and terrorism, with such features as an increased presence of uniformed police officers and bright lighting.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Illegal Curb Cuts - End the Madness

You've seen it. The New York Times even did an article with pictures last year of the ones on 4th Place. Certain individuals think they are so special and wonderful, that they deserve to pave over the courtyards (which they don't own) in front of their houses and park their cars in them. Meanwhile, the neighbors and the community pay for it with the cheapened, degraded appearance of the block. But Gary! You ask. Isn't that one less car on the streets, jockeying for a space? NO! Because now you are tricked into thinking you'll get a ticket for blocking a legal driveway . . . and parking enforcement will probably be fooled, too.

This will be a matter of some discussion, I imagine, at Thursday's CB6 transportation Committee hearing. Details below:
Dec 20 Transportation


Presentation and discussion of Intro 619, a local law to amend the administrative code for the city of New York, in relation to eliminating professional certification of plans submitted to the Department of Buildings regarding curb cuts and requiring notification of the Community Boards and Council Members upon receipt by the Department of Buildings of an application for a curb cut.

Presentation and discussion of Intro 620, a local law to amend the administrative code for the city of New York, in relation to requiring the illegally created curb cuts liable for penalties, requiring the Department of Transportation to restore illegally created curb cuts and providing for the reimbursement to the department for the cost of the work.

Presentation and discussion of two new Revocable Consent applications submitted to the Department of Transportation on behalf of P.S. 67 Development LLC for two planted area structures to be erected in front of new buildings at 370 and 372 12th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues).

Cobble Hill Community Meeting Room
250 Baltic Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

6:30 PM

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Telecom Immunity

Essentially, the phone companies have been helping the Bush administration to illegally spy on American citizens, without warrants, since before 9/11. Yes, before 9/11. While the arguments are always thrown out about how this is all to save us Murkins from the terrists, the Bush administration began the lawless spying almost as soon as he was sworn in.

And now, Congress, led by the spineless Harry Reid, is considering waving a magic wand and making it all legal. Read Glenn Greenwald for the gory details.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Straphangers Bill (deBlasio) of Rights

I hear that Bill deBlasio is holding a press conference on Tuesday at noon at Union Square Park to unveil a City Council Resolution laying out a Straphanger's Bill of Rights.

When: Tuesday 12/18, 12:00 - High Noon!
Where: Union Square.

That's all I've got. So to pad out this post, here are a couple of cool construction shots taken from the Engineering News Record's 2007 photo contest. Plenty of cool images there for infrastructure geeks. Pictured here are East Side Access, Fulton Street Transit Corridor, and South Ferry, respectively. Get your transit geek on.




This last one is my favorite. It looks like a crappy sci-fi film shoot could break out at any moment.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Why The Housing Market Is Due To Crash


This graphic (h/t Calculated Risk) pretty much draws the picture for you. It no longer makes sense to buy when you can rent for far less than the monthly cost of ownership. We left the realm of sanity about 6 years ago.

Case in point: The apartment (a condo conversion of a brownstone; walk-up, floor-through) next door to me would rent for perhaps $2500-2700 dollars per month.

It sold for nearly $1,000,000. And has monthly maintenance and taxes. Does that make financial sense to you? Crunch the numbers any way you want, it simply doesn't add up. At certain price levels, owning is more attractive than renting. The disastrous fiscal policies of the Bush administration have created a massive real estate bubble in the US (yes, even in Brooklyn) and the next few years will not be pretty.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Scarano - Lancaster Scandal

So we heard yesterday that Buildings Department commish Patricia Lancaster entered into a secret, sweetheart deal with infamous architect (what is the opposite of "starchitect"?) Robert Scarano. Essentially, Lancaster would sweep Scarano's various misdeeds under the rug.

This Daily News article visits with one of the victims of Scarano's chicanery, who thinks that Lancaster should be brought up on charges for the questionable deal with Scarano. But note this:
Bloomberg spokesman John Gallagher did not respond to a question about whether the mayor knew of the Scarano deal before it was signed. He said such nondisclosure deals since have been banned.
This stinks to high hell. We need action, including an investigation of Ms. Lancaster's dealings with Scarano. More broadly speaking, we need to reverse the damage done by years of Republican maladministration, starting with Rudy Giuliani's ill-advised self-certification program. It was self-certification that allowed Scarano to get away with the worst of his abuses.

We need a buildings Department with some teeth!

UPDATE: Gowanus Lounge has the response from DOB.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

F Train Report Card

You'd think an F Train report card would practically write itself . . . F! Ben Kabak has the full run-down on the F line's C- grade over at Second Avenue Sagas . . . here's a tiny morsel, with the shocking (shocking!) top three complaints:

What follows are the top ten complaints for another C-minus grade joining a long line of mediocre grades. After the jump, the full grade breakdown.

  1. Reasonable wait times for trains
  2. Adequate room on board at rush hour
  3. Minimal delays during trips
Ben also notes the potential for F express/ V local service once the viaduct work is complete - the holy grail of Culver Line service, which is potentially in our grasp. Make sure to let the MTA and your elected officials hear, regularly, how important this is to Brooklyn.

Man Bites Dog

Holy cow . . . NYT columnist Tom Friedman actually wrote a decent column.

After 9/11 we had an unprecedented opportunity to make this country a better, safer place. Too bad we had George W. Bush. Thanks, Scalia!

Monday, December 3, 2007

$100 Million Mortgage Fraud in Queens: Local Papers Silent

Unbelievable. Thomas Kontogiannis, Queens "businessman", convicted briber, admitted money launderer, and shadowy financier about town, has apparently run a $100 Million mortgage fraud in Queens while on trial in federal court for laundering bribes to a sitting US Congressman.

The unbelievable part is, this is not newsworthy enough for the New York Times, The Daily News, The New York Post, or Newsday to cover. Nor, as far as I can tell, any of the local borough-centric papers.

What the hell is up with that? Why do I have to read a California paper to get this news? This is a major national story, and the local media . . . *crickets*.

Monday, November 12, 2007

MTA Outreach Event Saturday 11/17

The MTA is hosting a workshop this Saturday, November 17th (preregister HERE) . . . for those of you (like me) who will be out of town - tell the MTA what you think about potential fare hikes HERE.

This interactive workshop will provide an overview of the MTA s financial situation and suggested options for adjusting fares and tolls. The feedback from the workshop will supplement the formal fare and toll public hearings and give you an additional forum at which to provide the MTA with informed, meaningful input about which options you prefer and your priorities for the future of the MTA.

While the traditional public hearings that begin on November 5 allow MTA customers to make a brief public statement, the November 17 forum will provide more information and an extended conversation that will inform the MTA Board before it considers the budget in December.

10 am - 1:30 pm (Pre-registration required for all participants by phone or email.)
New York University - Kimmel Center
KC Rosenthal Pavilion, 10th Floor
60 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012

Directions:
W 4th St at Washington Sq, Manhattan
Subway Services: A, C, D, E, F, to W 4 St; 1 to Christopher St; N, R, to 8 St; 6 to Astor Pl
Bus Services: M1, M2, M3, M5, M6, M8, M21

This is one I really would have liked to attend . . . but written testimony goes into the same public record, so even if you can't make it, let the MTA know we need better transit options, including enhanced F/V/G service on the Culver Line . . . and that fare hikes in this environment are unacceptable. First, the City and State need to pay a "fare" share of the costs.

11/19 CGNA Landmarking Forum

Mark your calendars for what promises to be a well-attended and informative meeting next Monday night:


S A V E T H E D A T E!

IMPORTANT

**** T O W N M E E T I N G *****

Out-of-context development in Carroll Gardens is changing our streets.

Can growth and preservation be compatible?

Join us for a panel discussion on landmarking and related issues.

When: Monday, November 19th

Time: 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Where: PS 58 Carroll School Auditorium

Carroll Street entrance (Court and Smith Streets)

Sponsored by: Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association

Friday, November 2, 2007

Q. What would it take for me to vote Republican?

A: Noach Dear running as the Democrat.

See the Brooklyn Paper for a small selection of the reasons why.

Electing a truly, truly awful Democrat is worse than electing a Republican. It's easier to defeat a sitting Republican in this county than to oust a bad Democrat.

More Expensive To Travel These Parts


The NYT has a story today about the high cost of travelling in our region, and further hikes looming on the horizon. The handy chart above, (credit: NYT; click to expand) details the pain, and most of it falls on New Jersey commuters.

Of course, all that pain is good for something. The NJ Transit hikes will help pay for a new tunnel under the Hudson River, and the Port Authority increases help pay for all new cars on the PATH system, as well as a total overhaul of the system itself.

Unfortunately for NJ commuters, an $8 Hudson crossing toll means that the notion of giving credit towards congestion pricing for those tolls must be reconsidered.

Let's call a spade a spade: these transit hikes amount to a regressive tax. The wealthiest among us are getting off light, as years of income tax cuts have gutted public financing for transit expansion, improvements, and maintenance. In New Jersey under Christine Whitman, income taxes were slashed, and property taxes, usage fees and every other conceivable way to squeeze money out of the lower and middle classes ballooned.

In New York, transit funding was slashed by a sneering, incestuous Rudy Giuliani and the wooden, uninspiring George Pataki.

We need to re-examine the inequity of a taxing system that balances financing for public works on the backs of the middle class.

Gowanus Canal Forum, December 6th

Mark your calendars - free Thursday nights in holiday season are not easy to come by.

Via the Gowanus Lounge, the meeting will take place Thursday, December 6th.
The meeting will take place from 6PM-8PM at the Belorusian Chruch at Atlantic Avenue and Bond Street.


A lot of questions need to be answered about the impacts of development on pollution in the Canal, and on the impacts of flooding.

Think about what happens to the Gowanus floodplain during a major hurricane or nor'easter. Now, what would happen if it were a dense residential enclave? What impact can we expect to see on the Canal due to global warming? And what is the city going to do about our (NYC's) continuous violation of federal water quality standards?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

100 Luquer Street


I walked past 100 Luquer today, taking a leisurely stroll back from an interview with BCAT about the Smith and Ninth renovation and the Culver Viaduct. The project has risen fairly quickly, with about 2/3 of its 11 stories up at this point(see Curbed for current photo).

The project is allowed to grow to this height for two reasons. First, our local zoning is R-6, which does not have the height limit it should (which is why many of us are pushing for a downzoning to R-6B). Second, Hamilton Ave is a wide street (at least 75' wide), which provides a density bonus to a developer. The lot in question extends from Luquer to Hamilton Ave, with the building actually sited up against Hamilton.

All right, nobody is particularly happy about the height of this thing. But to add insult to injury, the front yard of this thing is going to be a parking lot. I figured the deep setback would be a walled off garden space, with a low front wall to preserve the street line. But take a look at the rendering above. It's a surface parking lot. I'm sure the neighbors will be thrilled.

Rendering pilfered from Curbed.com

Smith and Ninth: Averting Disaster

From the comments, the intrepid Cap'n Transit has some creative suggestions for the MTA to mitigate the impacts of the Smith/9th station rehab (station closed for nine months . . . and that's if there are no delays).

First things first: MTA has to do a better job of outreach on a project like this. The Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association didn't have any warning that this was coming: the first any of us heard of it was from the Metro article last week. But it's not too late. The station work is expected to take place in 2010; there is still time to get community input on the necessary mitigation efforts.

First off, running a shuttle bus directly from Smith and Ninth into the Battery Tunnel and out to the Fulton Street Transit corridor is a must. Second, there should be some shuttle service to 4th Avenue for those who are doing a reverse commute. Simply running a shuttle back and forth between Carroll Street and Smith/Ninth is unacceptable.

Long term, as Cap'n Transit suggests, a tunnel would be nice; however the limiting factor (besides the obvious cost) is topography. The train would have to take a pretty massive dip under the Gowanus Canal, and the relative elevations at Carroll Street and in Windsor Terrace are pretty high. Thus, the ride would be a bit of a roller coaster along that stretch, and steep tunnels are tough for the trains to handle.

I could be wrong about that last bit, I understand that to be the problem.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Long Island War Profiteer Finally Indicted

Well it's about freakin' time. David H. Brooks (a far worse person than the execrable but comparatively benign NY Times columnist), he of the $10 MILLION bat mitzvah, has finally been indicted.

$10 million dollars for a teenage daughter's birthday party with entertainment by Stevie Nicks, Don Henley, Aerosmith, and 50 Cent. And all paid for with proceeds from selling . . . defective body armor to our troops!

From the Trentonian:

David H. Brooks, 53, the former CEO of DHB Industries Inc., and Sandra Hatfield, 54, the former chief operating officer, were charged in a superseding indictment with manipulating DHB's financial records to increase earnings and profit margins, thereby inflating the price of DHB's stock.

"Corporate executives who line their own pockets at the expense of their shareholders flaunt the responsibilities they owe their companies and the investing public," U.S. Attorney Benton J. Campbell said in a statement.

The former DHB executives are accused of falsely inflating the value of the inventory of DHB's top product, the Interceptor vest, to help meet profit margin projections. The vest, designed to withstand rifle fire and shrapnel, was made for the Marine Corps and other branches of the military.

This guy should rot in prison (up to 70 years* if convicted), but as the poster at Daily Kos pointed out, in the Bush Administration he'll probably get the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

*and please note, that doesn't include any charges for minor things like, say, war profiteering, defrauding the federal government, and criminal negligence for knowingly selling defective body armor to the armed forces.
UPDATE: Photo removed. Looks like the picture I had was the wrong David H. Brooks.

Smith and 9th Subway StationTo Close for 12 Months

Wow. This is the first I've heard of this . . . although in a way it's not surprising, given the scope of the Viaduct rehabilitation and the total rehabilitation of the Smith and 9th Station that is scheduled.

According to the Metro article that broke the news, the MTA has made the community "well aware" of this development. However, when an MTA spokesman came to speak to CGNA in late August, he mentioned only that Smith and 9th Street was in line for a total overhaul (and the station is in dire need of one). But there was no mention of closing the entire station down for any length of time, as I recall it.

12 months is a long time. If this happens at the same time that MTA closes the stairs at the Carroll Street Station's 2nd Place entrance for Billy Stein's 360 Smith, all hell's gonna break loose.

UPDATES:

How the hell did I miss the last paragraph?
There is another silver lining: The G will be extended to Church Avenue throughout the project, and one express track will be rehabilitated — potentially opening the door to a permanent F express in years to come.


And Jen at KensingtonBrooklyn noted earlier this week that an MTA spokesman would be at the Albemarle Neighborhood Association meeting tonight at 6:30. Details HERE.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Congestion Pricing - Brooklyn Presser Tomorrow


Tomorrow at 11:00 there will be a press conference in Downtown Brooklyn to publicize the map of proposed initial transit enhancements to go along with congestion pricing.


As you can see in the photo (click for a larger image), the enhancements are essentially new and bolstered existing bus lines throughout Brooklyn. The only immediate subway enhancement, near as I can tell, is extending C trains to 10 cars (a welcome improvement). Of course, any version of congestion pricing that comes down the pike MUST include enhanced F/V service in its medium-term planning.


Michael Cairl of the Park Slope Civic Council had this to say:
"Immediate implementation of transit improvements is essential to the success of congestion mitigation, and such improvements must occur whether or not congestion pricing is adopted, because of the severity of congestion today. Immediate improvements must include peak-hour, peak-direction express service on the F line between Kings Highway and Jay Street-Borough Hall, accompanied by increased frequency of G service and its extension to Church Avenue. MTA New York City Transit should also give serious consideration to extending peak-hour V service from its current terminal at Second Avenue to Kings Highway, providing local service on the Culver Line to complement F express service. Together, these will speed travel to the Central Business District, improve transit options within Brooklyn, and will contribute significantly to a reduction in congestion."

That's right on the money.



I'll post further details of the press conference when I have them.

Metro's Michael Rundle on the F Express

A good article out from Michael Rundle at Metro this morning.

The article leads with the word that the F express is stalled until the Culver Viaduct Rehabilitation. Buried further down in the article was some good news:
During the project’s next four years, she said, “We would work with the community, do all the analysis and discussion required to contemplate a future F express service,” which would initially run north from Church Avenue.
The latest push for an F express was propelled by Carroll Gardens blogger Gary Reilly, who started an online petition that caught the attention of local politicians and MTA officials. Yesterday Reilly suggested the V could eventually run into Brooklyn on the F tracks.

The other buried gem: "One area will be set aside to test different vendors of automated Communications-Based Train Control equipment."

So it seems like there could be more one-operator trains in our future. If the technology works, this could substantially reduce operating costs.

And if you haven't signed on to the Enhanced F/V Petition, sign on up. Over 4,000 signatures so far.

Gowanus Canal Cleanup Plans


I missed last night's CB6 Environmental Committee meeting, trapped at work . . . but Gowanus Lounge and Brownstoner were on the job, natch.

As GL sums it up, "the problems are as bad as you think and they are going to take a long, long time to address, even if things go well."

More:

The DEP plans to spend up to $125 million--with money coming from city
water and sewer fees--on cleaning up the Gowanus mess. Solutions include the
planned modernization of the flushing tunnel that draws water from New York
Harbor into the canal with "a much more robust, reliable pumping system" and
an upgrade of the sewage pump that directs sewage away from the canal and
toward the Red Hook treatment plant from the current 20 million gallons a
day to 30 million gallons daily. There might also be a "floatables vessel"
that would go around after bad storms and skim "floatables" from the surface
and there could be dredging of 750 feet of the end of the canal past the
Union Street Bridge to remove "sediment" left in the canal when raw sewage
flows into it. Underground retention tanks to hold storm runoff until it can
be handled have been dismissed as costing too much and requiring too much
land. (There was an early proposal to use the toxic parcel known as Public
Place for holding tanks, but the land is now supposed to become a mid-rise,
mixed use project with hundreds of units of housing.)

And the Gowanus has one heck of a wikipedia page. An accessible historical primer for you.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Salacious GOPer Divorce: Spawn of Satan, Richard Mellon Scaife Gets Some Karma

Wow. This was buried in the Style section of the Washington post. 5 pages of delicious schadenfreude that couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. This guy is the poster child for why we need a robust estate tax in this country. He has over a billion dollars that he never did a thing to earn, and which he uses to oil the GOP propaganda machine. Here's a taste:

Remember him? The cantankerous, reclusive 75-year-old billionaire who's spent a
sizable chunk of his inherited fortune bankrolling conservative causes and
trying to kneecap Democrats? He's best known for funding efforts to smear
then-President Bill Clinton, but more quietly he's given in excess of $300
million to right-leaning activists, watchdogs and think tanks. Atop his list of
favorite donees: the family-values-focused Heritage Foundation, which has published papers with titles such
as "Restoring a Culture of Marriage."
The culture of his own marriage is
apparently past restoring. With the legal fight still in the weigh-in phase, the
story of Scaife v. Scaife already includes a dog-snatching, an assault, a night
in jail and that divorce court perennial, allegations of adultery.
snip
Now we know that Scaife is beneficiary of nine different trusts, including
one called the "1935 Trust," with an approximate value of $210 million, and
another called "The Revocable Trust," valued at $655 million. Altogether, these
gushers are worth about $1.4 billion.
snip
We learned, too, that the Tribune-Review has been a gurgling sinkhole from
Day One; Scaife's lawyers say their client has pumped as much as $312 million
into it over the years. And he's going to have to keep on pumping. The
Tribune-Review's CEO has predicted an annual shortfall of $20 million for years
to come.

New York Times Editorial: Yes to Residential Parking Permits, Taxi Stands; No to Parking Permits for City Employees

Worth reprinting in its entirety, from the New York Times (emphasis added). First on my list wold be eliminating placards for City employees.

October 22, 2007
Editorial
Mr. Mayor, for Your Consideration
There’s a little dance that visitors and even many longtime New Yorkers do on emerging from the subway. A step forward, two back, one to the side, a glance up the street, then down — until, with any luck, bearings are found. So imagine the simple genius of the city’s latest innovation, directional decals on the sidewalks outside subway exits.
We applaud Mayor Michael Bloomberg for acting on the idea, which was offered by a Times reader last year. Mr. Bloomberg has shown that he’s not afraid to try what works, something he demonstrated again recently with his bold congestion pricing proposal, which would charge a weekday toll to most drivers on Manhattan’s busiest streets. While that complex issue is being hammered out by an appointed commission, we’d like the mayor to consider a few other easy, common-sense changes to bring order to the streets of the Apple:
Taxi stands. Anyone who has tried to get a taxi in New York in the rain, particularly at rush hour, knows that the system is broken. Hailers maneuver along the street, and to alternate corners, to get an edge over other taxi-seekers who have been waiting longer. Taxis waste gasoline, and needlessly spew out fumes, as they cruise for fares. Taxi stands, which work just fine in Paris, could be strategically placed around New York. People and cabs would line up. It would be civilized.
Residential parking permits, for a fee. Relatively few New Yorkers take on the expense and hassles of owning a car in the city — which is good, since it encourages the use of public transit. But there are still plenty of drivers, including many from out of town, who take advantage of the city’s generosity and park on the streets free. The city could get more cars off the street and raise badly needed money for mass-transit improvements if it set aside spots for residents for an annual fee. The mayor has not ruled out residential permits as part of a congestion pricing plan. But as cities from Berkeley, Calif., to Chicago and Baltimore have demonstrated, the idea works on its own.
Take away parking permits from city employees. Those vehicles that cavalierly park in front of hydrants or bus stops all too often do so with the impunity that comes with a privileged card placed on the dashboard. Virtually every city agency issues these permits, and there is no reliable count of how many are floating around. But they number in the thousands, including a lot of counterfeits. It’s time to end the free parking. This is New York, not Monopoly.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Bush Economy


Thanks to The Big Picture.

Victory!


Screamed myself hoarse at the Rutgers game last night. The record-setting crowd stormed the field in celebration after a nailbiter 30-27 victory over #2 South Florida. Rutgers had -3 turnovers, which hurt; but any team with the stones to pull off a faked punt AND a faked field goal in the same game deserves to win. It was electric.


After the game, the crowd was well behaved, but traffic was a nightmare. The bus system struggled with the sheer volume of red-clad people in the streets. Rutgers will have to rethink some of the logistics that come from having a ranked football program (which we only dreamed of when I was an undergrad). One thought would be to offer shuttle buses to and from the Edison NJ Transit rail station on game days.


More good news though: The College Avenue campus is set to undergo a major rebuilding, including the elimination of two large surface parking lots (replaced with a Quad) and elimination of traffic on College Avenue (replaced with Bus Rapid Transit). After a design competition, Enrique Norton's Ten Arquitectos won the bid to reshape College Avenue as a more pedestrian friendly environment. Here's a rendering of their vision for College Ave. Here's another.

Work could start as early as next Spring.


Photos from last night are available here, here, and here (thanks Juan):

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Redevelopment in Harrison, NJ: A Step In The Right Direction


Via Curbed, a terrific redevelopment project has finally broken ground in Harrison, NJ. One of the earliest industrial suburbs, Harrison suffered from years of blight and large swaths of desolate, weeded brownfields.


But Harrison has tremendous assets: an underutilized PATH station, a two minute ride to Newark's Penn Station, and convenient access to both NYC and the educational/cultural institutions of Newark (don't laugh . . . Newark has a lot to offer).


While the project also contains a large parking component, it is a boon to transit friendly development. New Jersey (my birthplace) needs more of this.


Visit Curbed for the details.

What Might Have Been: Brooklyn - Staten Island Subway

My neighbor worked for the MTA for many years and told me that long ago, the predecessor to the MTA began a subway under the Narrows to Staten Island. Fascinating stuff.

I forgot about it for a while but then came across the part in The Power Broker detailing the many failures of city works under Tammany in the 1920's and there it was. The Narrows Tube,

The Google turned up some interesting history:
The trans-narrows tube would have shot people and cargo across the Narrows
from St. George to Bay Ridge. The proposed two-mile tunnel section, which alone
would cost about $27 million, would have been the longest underwater tunnel in
the world when completed in 1929. But years passed and the tunnel project sat on
the city planners' shelves neglected. Work would halt a year later and petitioning would begin again. The incomplete construction of 1923 would turn out to be the closest Islanders have ever come to getting a rail connection to the rest of the city. (From the Staten Island Advance)

The NYC Roads page for the Verrazano Bridge has a history of the bridge that includes a history of the still-born tunnel from Brooklyn to Staten Island.

Saving the best for last, the NYC Subways page for the 4th Avenue line
details how the R train would have been extended out to Staten Island:
The original Dual Contracts plan provided for a tunnel under the Narrows from southern Brooklyn/Bay Ridge to Staten Island. The tunnel was intended to
leave the 4th Avenue subway at 65th St, Brooklyn, and would have entered
Staten Island midway between St. George and Stapleton, and would have had
branches to each. The 4th Avenue subway has four tracks between 59th and
65th Streets, two of which were intended for the Staten Island connection.
The Staten Island link might have been built in several different ways.
It is likely that a full 4-track subway to Fort Hamilton would only have
made sense if it led to a Narrows tunnel. A different plan, which got as far
as engineering drawings and even some excavation, would have left the subway
just south of 59th St, and you can see tunnel stub headings running straight
from the local tracks immediately south of the station. Several different
plans were drawn up for the Narrows tunnel, including a two track and a four
track option.
Recent discussions of a railroad freight tunnel across New York Harbor from New Jersey via Staten Island may once again bring about discussion of connecting the subway to Staten Island. It is likely that any tunnel built would be designed to tie into the LIRR's Bay Ridge Branch across southern Brooklyn to East New York, Fresh Pond, and via the New York Connecting Railroad to the Hell Gate Bridge.

Put this down on my wish list for transit projects. If anyone knows about traces of these tunnels that can still be seen/explored, please let me know.

Jay Rockefeller Sells Out to AT&T, Verizon

Glenn Greenwald has the gory details, but Jay Rockefeller, who has taken money hand over fist from telecom interests, has rewarded his bribers by writing immunity from prosecution into the Senate spying bill.
Just think about what is really happening here. AT&T's customers sued
them for violating their privacy in violation of long-standing federal laws and
for violating their Fourth Amendment rights. Even with the most expensive armies
of lawyers possible, AT&T and other telecoms are losing in a court of law.
The federal judge presiding over the case ruled against them -- ruled that the
law is so clear they could not possibly have believed that what they did was
legal -- and most observers, having heard the Oral Argument on appeal, predicted that they will lose in the Court of Appeals, too.
So AT&T and other telecoms went to Washington and -- led by Bush 41
Attorney General (and now Verizon General Counsel) William Barr, and in
cooperation with their former colleague, Mike McConnell -- began
paying former government officials
such as Dan Coats and Jamie Gorelick to
convince political officials to whom they
give money
, such as Jay Rockefeller, to pass a law declaring them the
victors in these lawsuits and be relieved of all liability -- all based on
assertions that a court of law has already rejected. They are literally buying a
judicial victory in Congress -- just like Carothers warned that third-world
countries must avoid if they want to become functioning democracies under the
"rule of law" ("Above all, government officials must refrain from interfering
with judicial decision-making").

Chris Dodd, who has admirably been railing against immunity, has pledged to do what he can to stop the bill. Dodd has the ability to place a hold on the bill, blocking amnesty. Let him know he has your support.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel Awakes From Bloomberg-Induced Coma


Well, Jerry Nadler has to be beaming today. The NYT reports that moribund plans for a Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel are seeing new signs of life:


Two years after turning its back on $100 million in federal funds for planning better ways to move freight, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has spun around and decided to accept the money.

This is good news. The CHFT would provide a much needed way to efficiently move freight east of the Hudson River. Currently, rail freight has to go hundreds of miles out of the way (north, and back south) or be barged across the harbor, which is inefficient. The unfortunate result for us is excessive truck traffic on our roads and bridges, which severely damages our infrastructure, creates traffic jams, and leads to health problems due to exhaust levels.


This is a plan whose time has come. The tunnel would run from an existing rail yard in Jersey City to an existying rail yard in Sunset Park.


And wikipedia has a good primer on the proposed tunnel here.
For rail geeks, here's a pdf on the history of the CHT idea.

John Edwards Poll Numbers

This sentence from drunken hobo Joe Klein sparked a thought:
The fact that the two leading Democratic candidates, Obama and Clinton, are
essentially running moderate campaigns--and that John Edwards' populism hasn't exactly caught fire--is an indication that the Democratic base isn't nearly as partisan as the Post seems to think it is.

I've said before and I'll say again, I think John Edwards platform and rhetoric is dead on. Edwards, I fear, hasn't had that special something, charisma, magnetism, je ne sais quoi, whatever, to make it resonate.

But maybe it's just the timing. Watch the housing market. We are headed into a recession in this country, though most people have no idea it's coming. The economic situation is going to get steadily worse between now and the election . . . and as it does, Edwards' star might start to shine a little brighter.

And apropos of nothing, my prediction is, Hillary will not be the Democratic candidate in 2008.

Monday, October 15, 2007

No To Phone Company Amnesty

Glenn Greenwald explains, in a way I don't have the patience to, why Congress must not approve any kind of amnesty to the phone companies for selling us all out to the Bush Administration.

It's also a useful look at just how intertwined the telcos are with our spying and military institutions.

If it weren't for the ACLU and the EFF, we wouldn't know any of this. It's truly mindboggling; it can be depressing if you're willing to sit back and watch it happen while sitting on your hands. But it doesn't have to be:

Tell the House and Senate leaders, NO AMNESTY! Firedoglake has a list of important numbers to call and let the committee members hear it, loud and clear. Use your voice. Call the Senators. Call the Congress.

Drunken hobo Joe Klein has a perch at Time magazine; you have your voice and toll-free numbers to call. Make your voice louder than his.

UPDATE: BoingBoing also has a good post up on this:

The administration's attempt to stop the litigation based on the secrecy
argument failed before the U.S. District Court, and the administration's appeal
is pending before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Unnamed sources have
informed reporters that the government and the telecommunications carriers are
deeply concerned that the 9th Circuit will allow the case to proceed, and now an
army of telecom lobbyists and administration officials is trying to stop the
litigation by persuading Congress to grant full immunity to the carriers.
The Hepting case, along with companion cases pending in District Court,
represent the country's best hope to test the administration's extreme view of
executive power in the crucible of judicial scrutiny, and to allow the courts to
determine whether we are truly a nation governed by law or by people.
It is
imperative that our society gets answers to crucial questions raised by the
warrantless surveillance program on the separation of powers and the scope of
executive authority. The courts must not be pulled from the fight, whether by
the state secret privilege or immunity legislation. It would be a travesty to
deny the opportunity for justice to those whose privacy has perished under a
presidential program, and to prevent the courts from determining whether the
Constitution supports the president's claim of unbridled executive power.

Court Street Reconstruction

Via Brownstoner,

CB6 voted to make the reconstruction of Court Street the board’s number one priority in their fiscal year ’09 capital budget requests for the second year in a row . . . . The project covers things like repairing the sidewalks and curbs from Atlantic to Hamilton avenues, and it’s supposed to mirror the recent reconstruction of Smith Street, which is partially credited with turning Smith into the retail powerhouse it is today.

No plans drawn up yet. It will be interesting to see what this looks like. Certainly some sidewalk improvements would be a nice addition to the neighborhood. I'm not sure this would be my top priority, but it could be a very nice touch.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Qwest/Nacchio: More DOJ Politicization

There are a few mind-boggling things about this week's news on Joseph Nacchio (former CEO of Qwest, prosecuted for insider trading).

First, this appears to have been another case of political prosecution by Bushco (Scott Horton at Harper's has lately been fantastic tying together these stories).

Second, and more important: this case shows that the Bush administration was already putting it's spying apparatus into place in February 2001 . . . long before "9/11 changed everything." They've been building their spying network since the beginning, and September 11th was just a handy excuse for what they were doing.

And here I thought I'd lost my capacity to be surprised.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Karl Rove's Politicization of the DOJ, and a Miscarriage of Justice in Alabama

Did Karl Rove push the politically motivated prosecution of Alabama Democrat Don Siegelman?

That's what a Republican lawyer has stated in a sworn affidavit. Keep an eye on this story, it's been simmering for a while now, and about to boil over into a national scandal.

Go back and read Scott Horton's (Harper's) earlier posts on the Siegelman case to get a handle on the depth of the corruption at DOJ and in the Alabama GOP. It truly is stomach churning to see that this sort of thing is so pervasive. Also check out this post at The Next Hurrah (good reading, as always, from emptywheel)

Ironically, Mrs. Gary is currently in Montgomery, Alabama for work. And for the past couple of days, it keeps coming up; yesterday it was the bible-thumping preacher who accidentally killed himself during a kinky . . . well, you wouldn't believe me if I told you, so here's the autopsy report. And today, another bombshell in the Siegelman case.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Roger Cohen On The Couch

Josh Marshall takes the unbelievably self-important Roger Cohen down a peg.

F Express in the Daily News

Councilmen Simcha Felder and Domenic Recchia have a solid piece of F Express advocacy in today's Daily News. Check it out.

Also, in another Daily News article on the MTA's congestion pricing impact costs:
The MTA said it would need 309 new buses to serve additional riders, including
12 new express routes in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, and 46 new subway cars to run more frequently on the 1, E and F lines and to make C trains longer.
More cars for the F line? That's music to my ears. The campaign is working. Keep pushing, people. Keep pushing.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Congestion Pricing & Parking Reform Make a Lovely Couple

Regular readers know that I have an obsession about coupling the proposed congestion pricing plan with improved mass transit (e.g., enhanced F/V/G service on the Culver Line).

There is another ingredient that should be baked into this cake, and that is parking reform. First off, rampant placard abuse must be curtailed. Second, many placards which are currently legitimate should be eliminated; there are way too many city employees today with a license to violate the parking laws. Lastly, residential parking permits should be established in certian outer borough neighborhoods to discourage "park and ride" practices that bring overcrowding and excess traffic to local streets.

Streetsblog has got a good post up toda on parking reform that's worth checking out.

Brownstoner's 3rd and Bond Series

Brownstoner has a lengthy series of ongoing posts by the developers of 3rd and Bond Street.

Makes for some interesting reading from another perspective on a development in progress . . . and of course, some interesting comments on the post. Note this is Part 8 of an ongoing series, and links to the first seven posts are included at the bottom of this one.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Free Shuttle to Fairway


As much as I love the artisanal places in the neighborhood (Caputo's, Monteleone's Bakery, Caputo's Bake Shop, Stinky Brooklyn) sometimes you need to do a good shop to stock the cupboards.

Although Carroll Gardens lacks a quality supermarket, down on the water in Red Hook is the greatest supermarket ever created by man: Fairway. Fairway has every conceivable food item you could want under one roof, all high quality, fair prices, all in a beautiful old warehouse that is a stunning example of adaptive reuse.

The problem is, how to get home with all those groceries? Even though Fairway will deliver your groceries, you still need to carry all the perishables with you. What to do?

Thanks to Assemblywoman Joan Millman, you can take a free shuttle:

Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman again will be coordinating a free shuttle for neighborhood residents to the Fairway Supermarket in Red Hook. The shuttle will depart from the Eileen C. Dugan Senior Center, located at 380 Court Street, on Tuesday, October 9th at 10:00 AM and return to the Dugan Center at approximately 11:30 AM. Due to limited seating on the bus, shoppers must call Assemblywoman Millman’s office at 718-246-4889 to sign-up.

“It is my hope that Carroll Gardens residents will be able to benefit from the revival of the free shuttle to Fairway,” stated Millman. “Unfortunately there are not enough supermarkets to serve the neighborhood and many of my constituents, especially seniors, have a difficult time buying their groceries.”

      When: Tuesday, October 9th, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM

      Where: 380 Court Street (Between Carroll and President Streets)

What: Free shuttle from the Eileen Dugan Senior Center to the Fairway Supermarket


Let's hope that Joan and Fairway can make this a regular amenity for the neighborhood.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

March 31, 2008: Congestion Pricing, MTA, Enhanced F/V/G

I learned some interesting things today; first from Ben's blog, that March 31, 2008 is the date that the MTA will submit it's capital budget for the next 5 years.AND March 31st is an important deadline for the Mayor's Congestion Pricing plan. We need the F express and ancillary enhancements in that capital plan. We need the congestion pricing plan to prioritize enhanced subway service in Brooklyn. This date is vitally important.

Second, at the CB6 Transportation Committee meeting, a Ms. Haiman from the Office of Sustainability gave a presentation on PlaNYC and the need for congestion pricing. There I learned that the City has identified 24 problem neighborhoods, where an inordinate number of people drive into the Central Business District. One of those neighborhoods? Kensington! I pointed out that there is a simple, eloquent solution to that issue: restore the express service on the F line that services Church Avenue in Kensington. PlaNYC only provides for an additional bus route through Kensington; the correct solution is to restore the Culver Line (that's the F for non-transit geeks) to its former glory.

Third, I learned from my Assemblywoman that her office has been receiving calls and drop-ins to advocate for the F express. The interest that all of you have shown is making a difference.

Congratulations to the Hon. Diana Johnson

Brooklyn's next, and first black, surrogate court judge.

There is still the small matter of the general election, but in this race it was all about the Democratic primary.

Congratulations to all.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

CB6 Transportation Meeting Thursday: Congestion Pricing and 4th Avenue

This is an important meeting. It's a great opportunity to point out that Brooklyn will need transit enhancements to mitigate the impact of Congestion Pricing. And what better way than to restore the F express and extend the V local to Brooklyn?

Sep 20 Transportation

Briefing by representatives for the Department of Transportation on the Mayor's PlaNYC 2030 Transportation initiatives, which includes a proposed Congestion Pricing pilot program. The Transportation section of the plan can be reviewed in advance and is available at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/planyc2030/html/plan/plan.shtml

Update from representatives for the Department of Transportation on the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Plan initiatives (Capital project HWK1153) already underway, and discussion of further needs for 4th Avenue corridor and environs.
Middle School 51
350 5th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Auditorium
6:30 PM

An Open Letter to the Brooklyn Paper on the F/V Petition

In case you've read the Brooklyn Paper's misguided editorial, Ben Kabak has drafted a spirited defense of the grassroots movement for enhanced F/V service in Brooklyn:

"Last week, Gersh Kuntzman’s Brooklyn weekly The Brooklyn Paper ran a scathing (and, in my opinion, very short-sighted) editorial entitled “Who needs an F express?” As you may have guessed from the non-too-subtle title, Kuntzman, supposedly a champion of Brooklyn, isn’t in favor of this added train service on tracks that have existed since these subway lines opened in the 1930s.

In response to this outrageous editorial, I wrote a letter to the editor. The letter, co-signed by the other two major proponents of the F Express Plan, Gary Reilly, the driving force behind the F Express and author of Brooklyn Streets, Carroll Gardens, and Jen from Kensington (Brooklyn), disputes every contention made by The Brooklyn Paper in its editorial. While we hope the letter will appear in an upcoming issue of the paper, here it is in its entirety:

We were dismayed, surprised and saddened by your Sept. 15 editorial entitled “Who needs an F express?” Chock-full of misconceptions, gross oversimplifications and simply wrong information, the editorial provides a disservice to residents of not just Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill but to all Brooklynites who stand to benefit from express service along the F line and an overall increase of service along the Culver Line.

First among your charges is that due to a supposed bottleneck at York St., “there may not be enough capacity to add trains.” This is an unfounded claim. Elsewhere in the system – the 7 line comes to mind – where express and local tracks feed into one, express service and increased train capacity have led to a lessening of crowded trains. If our greatest concern is one focusing on a scheduling issue past Jay St./Borough Hall, the real location of the bottleneck, then we have nearly won the battle for express service.

Next up is your claim of “simple populism” levied against our local politicians. These politicians are signing on to the research we have conducted that shows our proposal is more than just “simple populism.” As we have stressed over and over again, we don’t need to build new subway tracks to increase service along the Culver Line. The express tracks – the only unused express tracks in the City – were built with the subway line in the 1920s. We don’t need the hard work, vision or money to build new subways; we just need an MTA willing to utilizing underused tracks.

With our plan encompassing V service into Brooklyn past its current Second Ave. terminus and F express service into Kensington and beyond, we fail to see how Brownstone Brooklynites won’t enjoy any benefits. The V will, in our plan, service the current F stops, and the F will service the express stations. Both trains will run frequently, and both will be less crowded.

Overall, it is true that Brooklyn – much like New York City on the whole – needs a bold vision to bring about the next generation of transit enhancements. But we can’t afford to ignore or dismiss the solution right under our noses. Brooklyn needs a restored F express and extended V local, and everyone will benefit from that service.

Remember what we are fighting for: expanded service, express AND local, to Brooklyn. Come on, Gersh (newsroom@brooklynpaper.com), we could use your help.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Brooklyn Democratic Primary Tomorrow

Via email, the following reminder from Joanne Simon:

Tomorrow, September 18th is a Democratic primary. On the ballot in
Brooklyn this year are races for Brooklyn Surrogate (often described as
widows and orphans court) and two municipal district civil court races,
which affect limited sections of Carroll Gardens and Gowanus.

Since this list is not political, this message will not endorse any
candidate. It is a reminder to get out and vote!

You can only vote in this Primary if you are a registered Democrat.

The polls will be light tomorrow, so there will be no long lines!

I encourage all of you who are registered Democrats to get out and
exercise your right to vote tomorrow. The Primary is where your vote
counts most! Thanks much,

Jo Anne Simon
Democratic District Leader,
52nd Assembly District
I, of course, am free to put my opinion in the mix. IND has endorsed Diana Johnson for Surrogate, and I'll be casting my vote tomorrow. If you're on the fence, I encourage you to do the same.

Here's Sen. Velmanette Montgomery supporting Diana Johnson (courtesy Daily News' Liz Benjamin).

Here's Daily Gotham's mole333 on the primaries in general, and noting that Johnson has the endorsement of IND, CBID, and Lambda.

Show some love for a progressive candidate tomorrow. UPDATE: In case I wasn't clear enough - I endorse Diana Johnson in the election tomorrow. VOTE!

MTA Going Green(er)

The Daily News has a story out this morning on the MTA's plans to be more environmentally friendly.

Good ideas.

In other news, Ben at SecondAveSagas covers the news of more federal funding for the SAS and the East Side Access projects. Another kind of green . . . and the Senators need to keep it coming for the NYC transit that is a model fro the rest of the country.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Recchia Rising?


Via Gowanus Lounge's news links, the Post reports that Councilman Domenic Recchia is looking to unseat Congressman Vito Fossella:
The 13th Congressional District encompasses Staten Island and South Brooklyn's Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights and Gravesend neighborhoods. Fossella, a Republican, has represented it since 1997.
Recchia has been a steadfast supporter of enhanced service on the F lines in Brooklyn, specifically supporting the rstoration of F express and extending the V local.

We need more transit supporters in Congress (and fewer Republicans). This is exciting news and we're delighted that Recchia will throw down with Fossella. Last time around, Steve Harrison gave him a good go, getting 43% of the vote despite being outspent 15-1 by Fossella. 2008 is going to be a bad year for Republicans, and this district may well swing to the Democrats.

Harrison, by all accounts a solid guy, is also expected to run in 2008. One thing is certain: It's going to be an interesting couple of years in Brooklyn politics.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

We Need High Speed Rail


Via Atrios, the AP has an article on the resurgence of interest in high speed rail:

While sleek new passenger trains streak through Europe, Japan and other corners of the world at speeds nearing 200 mph, most U.S. passenger trains chug along at little more than highway speeds — slowed by a half-century of federal preference for spending on roads and airports.
snip

The six-year-old Acela Express is the only U.S. rail line that tops the 125 mph considered "high speed" by international standards. And even supporters concede it barely qualifies, hitting its maximum 150 mph for less than 20 miles from Boston to Washington, D.C., and averaging just 86 mph over the full 456-mile run.

Even so, Acela's ridership rose 20 percent in May as gasoline prices topped $3 a gallon nationwide, said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole. Nationally, Amtrak is poised for its fifth straight year of ridership gains this year, said Marc Magliari, a spokesman for the railroad.

snip

John Spychalski, a transportation expert and professor at Penn State University, says high-speed rail will continue to languish unless lawmakers provide the same financial backing as highways and air travel. He said some could be swayed if high-profile projects such as California's succeed.

If you want to get depressed, just imagine for a moment that after 9-11, instead of attacking Iraq, we had invested $600 billion not in bombing another country, but in rebuilding our own infrastructure with a nationwide system of intercity high speed rail. Talk about a true investment in national security.

What's done is done, but it's never too late to see some actual leadership. Instead of running around throwing money at BS "alternatives" like clean coal and ethanol, let's bring our investment in high speed rail up to par or better with the huge subsidies we give away to the plane and the automobile. Hell, if you must have your clean coal, at least use it to generate the electricity to run high speed rail.

Rail could be superior to air or auto transit on many inter-city routes in the US, and is by far the most energy efficient. No conversation about "energy independence" should gloss over the fact that subsidized travel by plane and by car is the largest cause of our dependence on foreign oil.

Reading this article reminded me of a post I saw on Daily Kos back in march on building a national high speed rail network. This has to be a national priority akin to the Eisenhower Highway System, and once again, national security is a compelling reason for doing so (but far from the only reason). Searching for that post, I stumbled upon this post, which ups the ante by laying out stages for construction and integrates with Canada and Mexico for a North American rail network akin to the one in Europe. The map above comes from that post by seaprog.

Elect a Democratic President and we might actually get this started.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Assemblyman Brennan on the F Express

I reached out to Assemblyman Brennan's office last week because of an anonymous comment I received about six weeks ago:
Anonymous said...

Man, you need to do an interview with Assembly Member Jim Brennan so that he can explain to you why a restoration of the F express will NEVER happen on his watch. I suggest that you go talk to him and report back.

Far out, man. Buzzkill! That was quite an assertion, but since I asked for some clarification and never got it, I didn't take it very seriously. I had also heard from various people, that Brennan is a straight shooter, a shining example, honorable, etc. Eventually, curiosity got the better of me and I called up Brennan's office.

Turns out, Jim Brennan CAMPAIGNED on restoring the F Express back in the early 1980's. However, apparently vibration and property damage in the Windsor Terrace area have been a serious concern among some of Brennan's constituents. This led to moving the F express to a back burner, and focusing on getting the MTA to correct the vibration issues, with some results, but persistent problems for many properties along the line. The problem seems to be that the line runs too close to the surface in this swath.

My response was, we can fix the vibration problem with better tracking and trackbed; restoring the F Express still needs to be a priority.

Assemblyman Brennan followed up this week with a statement and with a copy of a letter he sent to the MTA this week, pasted below:

I support the concept of restoration of F express service and extending
the G train to Church Avenue and V train service along the F line in
Brooklyn. However, restoration of the F express must proceed cautiously,
with extensive testing and review of track conditions. The property
above the F train tunnel has experienced serious vibration and noise
problems over the years, primarily in Windsor Terrace but also in
Kensington and along the Ninth Street corridor. My office has intervened
four times over the past 20 years to get the M.T.A. to spend millions in
track renovation and repairs to protect adjacent homes and property from
damage due to vibration.

At this time we are sending a letter to the M.T.A. asking for extensive
testing of F express service prior to the beginning of construction on
the elevated platforms at Fourth Avenue and Smith-9th Street. Thank you
for your efforts to raise this issue.
And the letter:

Dear Mr. Sander,

Thank you for your response to my letter concerning F Line Express service. I do understand that the Culver Viaduct rehabilitation project will require use of the F Express tracks, beginning in 2008. However, the Culver Viaduct rehabilitation and bypass will have significant impact on service during the period of work and it is important for the community to have meaningful information about what to expect, especially in view of the longstanding vibration problems experienced by property owners along the F line in Windsor Terrace and Kensington.

I would therefore like to ask you to begin testing F Line Express service prior to the Culver Viaduct rehabilitation by running a limited number of express trains over these tracks over a period of 3-4 months. Such a study would provide valuable information about the current quality of the tracks, would test the impact of the service on surrounding communities, and would provide data for assessing the value and viability of re-introducing regular F Express Service after completion of the Culver Viaduct project. Given the chronic subway vibration problems in Windsor Terrace and Kensington communities, it is prudent to conduct this sort of controlled study before you begin running trains on the F Express tracks during the rehabilitation project.

I would like to invite you to come out to Brooklyn to brief the community boards and local elected officials about the service impact of the project and to begin a dialogue about restoration of the F Line Express. I would also appreciate a complete description of the schedule and impact of the rehabilitation projects, as well as a map of the location of the F Line Express tracks. Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

James F. Brennan
That's one more elected official on board the F Express. I think Brennan's idea of testing the express tracks out before the Viaduct project gets under way is sound; if the trackage will need a major overhaul, let's get that out of the way while the Culver Viaduct rehab is under way.

You (probably) heard it here first.