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
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.

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.


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.


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.

F Express Probability

Andrew Inglesby from NYC Transit appeared at the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association meeting on Monday to address questions about the Culver Viaduct rehab, the prospects for the F express, and everyone's favorite new development, the Billy Stein project at 360 Smith Street.*

Michael Rundle has a piece in today's Metro paper on the possibility of an F express including a quote from yours truly. It's a good piece. Ben at SecondAvenueSagas also has a post up on the F express, and of course, the inimitable Gowanus Lounge has the definitive meeting coverage. Actually, GL's meeting coverage spans an incredible three posts, but the other two posts concern 360 Smith, which we'll get to in another post today.

The news from the meeting was generally good. First, if the Culver Viaduct rehab is significantly delayed (a year or more) the MTA is looking at implementing interim express service. That's a big deal.

Second, and most significant in my view, is the MTA is seriously looking at restoring the F express after the Viaduct rehabilitation. Before the community voiced it's demand, and the elected officials and media devoted a great deal of attention to this issue, restoring F express service was not even on MTA's radar screen. Now, I am fairly confident that it is going to be a reality. We need to maintain pressure to make sure that the reality includes expanded local service to accompany the coming express service: the F express and V local.

In another news, another elected official has cautiously come out in favor of the F express: Assemblyman James Brennan. More details in the next post.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

New Giants/Jets Stadium Renderings - Transit Included

I've been a casual Giants fan all my life, and been to the occasional Jets game as well. Typically, I don't get that excited about new stadiums, because it's difficult for me to look past a poor use of public money to subsidize wealthy team owners. (As is virtually always the case). Curbed has a rundown with links to today's NYT story and more renderings.

But the renderings for the new Meadowlands complex do get me excited about one thing: prominent rail access to the stadium. In the new renderings at top and bottom, you can see that their is a new NJ Transit facility right next to the new stadium . . . a big improvement.

Plenty of people will be able to meet car-commuting friends to tailgate in the parking lots. I imagine that the new Xanadu complex will also have some sort of beer garden or sports bars (or both) that will be serving up pre- and post-game fare as well.

So, there is a ray of sunshine in this giant boondoggle in the Meadowlands: at least it will be accessible by mass transit.