Posts tagged with "MTA":

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Thrown from the Bus

If you've been frustrated by the recent flood of delays on the Subway, don't complain to Howard Roberts. The president of New York City Transit, which operates the R142s and the various city buses, Roberts submitted his resignation today, effective the end of the month. The move did not come as a surprise to the Times, which noted that the move had actually been expected by many within the MTA because of failings over a recently renegotiated transit workers contract and, more simply, "a changing of the guard [...] is often accompanied by staff shake-ups." (Jay Walder, the new head of the MTA who accepted Robertson's resignation, took over roughly a month ago.) Gene Russianoff, head of the Straphangers Campaign, lauded Roberts, however, for working under tight budgetary strictures and for implementing line "czars" for each subway. Still, it appeared to be too little, too late, as service remained relatively spotty, for which the former head of Philly's public transit often took the blame, as well as for enforcing an MTA rule requiring Sikh's to affix an agency logo to their turbans. Reading each others minds as usual, both the News and the Post point out in their ledes that Robertson will be awarded a $300,000 severance.
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Another Atlantic Yards Suit

As we reported back in June, the activists fighting the Atlantic Yards project did not expect any of the various government agencies with oversight of the project to oppose it when they had the opportunity this summer—the MTA revised its sale of the yards, the ESDC approved a modified General Project Plan. What the critics were more excited about was the possibility of additional lawsuits, which, while generally unsuccessful, have helped stall the project nonetheless and paint it in an increasingly negative light. Today, a day before a major showdown over eminent domain in the state's highest court, Develop Don't Destroy filed a new lawsuit, this one challenging the MTA's sale, and it has an important distinction from the others. When we saw the filing, the first thing that struck us was the petitioners. In the past, only Develop Don't Destroy or local residents and businesses had been signed on to the suits. Now, a number of local politicians and a major transit advocacy group have signed on to this latest case. Maybe that's immaterial in the eyes of the courts, a case is a case, petitioners are petitioners, but it certainly underscores the growing opposition to the project. This is not to say prior petitions were invalid, but they did have the patina of NIMBYism. Now, this is much less the case. Again, we're not sure this matters, legally speaking, but given that Yards watchdog Norman Oder points it out in his typically no-stone-unturned analysis of the new suit, it obviously bears mentioning. As for the suit itself, Oder agrees with us that, like its predecessors, even if it doesn't technically succeed, it could still make progress on the Yards all the more difficult:
Even a successful lawsuit might not formally stop the project, but it could throw a wrench into Forest City Ratner's plan to have the state sell tax-exempt bonds and for arena construction to begin this year. As Neil deMause observes on his Field of Schemes blog: "The real question now is whether another lawsuit will make it too expensive for Ratner to get bond insurance so he can start selling arena bonds this month as planned."
The MTA has so far declined to comment. UPDATE: Dan Goldstein of DDDB wrote us last night to point out that the Straphangers, as well as the Sierra Club, had been involved in one of the two prior suits, though no politicians. Also, we forgot to mention that this is probably only the first of what could be many more suits now that the MTA and ESDC have officially taken action. In fact, our June story emphasized the latter more than the former, which suggests that one is on the way, though Goldstein made no mention of it. And he's not the only one filing suit. Last week, as the Park Slope Courier reported, neighborhood groups have filed a suit against the state and Ratner for not doing a thorough enough traffic study. The groups are not trying to stop the project, however, but simply get Ratner to make changes to address the problems.
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Fijne Verjaardag Sol Lewitt!

That would be Dutch for "Happy Birthday Sol Lewitt!" For you see, the Dutch have arrived in the city this week to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the voyage of Henry Hudson and the subsequent founding of New Amsterdam. As part of the week-long festivities, they have unveiled a Ben Van Berkel-designed pavilion (above) down on the Battery that was announced back in January. But once those festivities are over, perhaps ours trans-Atlantic friends might head uptown to Columbus Circle, where the MTA unveiled its latest Arts for Transit project today, a 53-foot long tile rendition of one of Lewitt's wall drawings entitled "Whirls and twirls (MTA)." The installation was revealed today as it would have been the Conceptualist artist's 82nd birthday. (He died in 2007.) According to the MTA, Lewitt began work on the project in 2004 and it consists of 250 individual tiles in 6 colors all cut and arrayed to the artists typically exacting specifications. "It is a very special and unique creation because it is a permanent public installation of a wall drawing, executed in porcelain tile. Usually the wall drawings are executed in paint or pencil based on exacting instructions by the artist," Sandra Bloodworth, director for the Arts for Transit and Facilty Design programs, said in a release. The installation is part of the city's ongoing rehabilitation of the Columbus Circle station, which, in addition to the Lewitt installation, includes new lighting, flooring, and tiles, a new entrance at 60th Street and Broadway, and new bathrooms and newsstands. Back downtown and above ground, not all was high design, however. Yes, the Prince of Orange and Princess Maxima were on hand to help Mayor Bloomberg unveil UN Studio's New Amsterdam Pavilion (for which Handel Architects was the local partner). It's a nice little place that not only offers information about the surrounding neighborhoods and city but also goings on in the Netherlands—though what good that is to locals or tourists is not exactly clear. But by far the worst import was a windmill photographed by our fearless leader Julie Iovine, which looked less like a symbol of Dutcha pride than a new hole on some Lower Manhattan mini-golf course.
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Back on the Map

It may not have a marquee name attached to it, but work on the Cortlandt Street R/W subway station is another sign of the slow but increasingly steady progress at the World Trade Center site. Closed since 9/11, the heavily damaged station has stood as an eerie reminder of that day, visible to the thousands of riders that pass by it everyday as the trains creak and twist toward Rector Street. A gray dot on the MTA subway map represent the station’s there-but-not-there quality. The Cortlandt Street 1 train station is also marked with a gray dot. The words “World Trade Center Site” hover over the map in an even lighter shade. Recently, workers on the northbound R/W train platform have been laying concrete block and setting sparkling white tiles. It looks much like any other station undergoing refurbishment. According to a spokesman for the MTA, the northbound platform will reopen in December 2009. It’s a small workaday step toward reintegrating the site into the city fabric, but it also illustrates its complexities involved in construction there. A timeline for the reopening of the southbound platform is being developed. The entire 1 train station will remain closed until an unspecified date, according to the spokesman. To reopen the other platform and the additional station, issues of collaboration, permissions, and access must be resolved between the MTA and the Port Authority. The MTA will alter all the subway maps to reflect the reopening of the northbound platform. UPDATE: The MTA sent this statement clarifying when and why the station was closed.
Following the events of September 11, 2001, the Cortlandt Street R/W Station was reopened on September 15, 2002. The station was closed again on August 20, 2005, to accommodate excavation and construction of the Dey Street underground pedestrian concourse, a component of the MTA's Fulton Street Transit Center project. The concourse will create direct passage between the Fulton Street/Broadway-Nassau subway station platforms, the R & W platforms, the World Trade Center site and its PATH station. The work building the concourse has been completed, but the Cortlandt Street station has remained closed because of a slight settlement that has occurred to the platforms as a result of work being done to rebuild the adjacent World Trade Center site. This settlement is detectable by engineering instruments, but does not significantly affect the overall structural soundness of the station and has not impacted train traffic through the station. Station opening requires that the settlement be repaired, which has been partially completed but requires further work, and that the station finishes and necessary stair and passageway work be completed.

MTA Doomsday Rally

Transportation Alternatives has planned a rally tomorrow to pressure Albany into rescuing the beleaguered MTA, a move supported by the Governor and Assembly but not yet, if ever, by the Senate. We can only hope the actual rally is as, uh, exciting as the video they produced to promote it. Stop by on your way to work and see if the dragons actually show up.
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Grand (Central) Slam for MTA

Donald Trump’s Grand Central Tennis Club may see its last baller this spring. According to the Daily News, the tony courts, long frequented by politicians, celebrities, and tennis pros, will be closed to make way for a new rest area for Metro-North conductors and train engineers. Trump has leased the space from Metro-North for 30 years, paying $4 a square foot, about 4% of the average Grand Central going rate.

The courts, above Vanderbilt Hall on the third floor of the terminal, are in a once-unoccupied attic area that allegedly served as a ballroom until it was converted to CBS broadcast facilities in the late 1930s. (The first episodes of “What’s My Line?” and Edward R. Murrow’s “See It Now” were broadcast there.) In 1965, Hungarian immigrant Geza A. Gazdag founded Vanderbilt Athletic Club in the space, building two courts on the former soundstage and converting the broadcast studio to a lounge. A year later, he put in a 65-foot indoor ski slope next to the courts.

After it changed owners in 1970, the club underwent a $100,000 Dorothy Draper redecoration. Though some reports indicate the commuter railroad could open a new tennis club that would earn several times what Trump has paid, it remains to be seen if the new employee lounge, to be equipped with bunk beds, lockers and showers, will retain any of Draper’s modern baroque stylings.

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Keep Your Eye on the Oculus (UPDATE)

Even before the recession hobbled the MTA, the fate of the Fulton Street Transit Center was much in doubt. There had been talk of simply capping the site with a park, or building Grimshaw's pavillion but without Jamie Carpenter's signature oculus. But according to a report this morning on WNYC, the MTA has decided to go forward with an above-ground building, though it could be sans oculus. And, for better or worse, there will be more retail opportunities (read: a mall), which, given Richard Ravitch's contention that the MTA lacks a consistent, reliable funding stream, might not be such a bad idea. The WNYC report is not online, though confirmation from MTA prez Lee Sander, as well as the news that it will cost between $1.3 billion and $1.4 billion, is. Furthermore, per WNYC, "Sander would not say what revisions have been made to the hub's design." But a source at Grimshaw wrote in an email that not much has changed--yet. "We are still the architect and the oculus still exists." In an interesting twist, the Post is now reporting that the remaining $497 required to complete the project will come from the Obama stimulus package, as well as more vague design pronouncements:
"People have been worried that we were going to leave a hole in the ground or construct a simple subway entrance instead of the iconic structure that the community was expecting," Sander said. "I am here to tell you that this is not the case." The original designs of the above-ground glass structure called for an oculus that would reflect light into the station. The plans were later simplified to only include skylights.
No word yet from Jamie Carpenter, though the MTA press office is hard at work on filling us in. For a reminder of what the project may or may not look like, check NY1's story from Monday. Update: In an email, Carpenter writes, "We are of course hopeful but I have no current information." Meanwhile, MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan shed slightly more light on the project. "At this stage, we've reached a concept but no new designs yet," he said, adding "A three-story glass structure is about as specific as I could get." In the Times, Sander said pretty much the same thing, as well as making a strong case for its inclusion in the stimulus plan:
“The pavilion has to be many things to many people,” Mr. Sander said, referring to the glass structure. “It has to be a building of vibrant design with as much new retail activity as possible.” He called it “a highly visible portal to a modern transportation complex.” [...] “The project needs to be finished,” he said. “It does at this point appear to meet the criteria that Congress has put out, and from an economic stimulus standpoint, in terms of job creation, it certainly seems appropriate.”
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R.I.P. Z Train

As if last night's hearing about the MTA's "austerity budget" wasn't scary enough, the Straphangers Campaign held a mock funeral today for the Z Train to drive the point home, complete with a memorial wreath and a bagpiper playing taps below Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan. The transit advocacy group chose the line especially because it meant many commuters on the J Line would see their commutes rise upwards of an hour. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to ask Governor David Paterson and state legislative leaders to spare the Z Line from extinction by voting new state aid for the transit system,” Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the group, said by way of eulogy.  “It’s curtains for the Z unless Albany comes to the rescue.  If not, the Z will buried.” Though the Z may be most emblematic of the severe cutbacks the MTA is proposing, it is certainly not the only line affected. Service on the G Line will be cut short, the R Train will skip three stations at night, and like the Z, the W will cease to be. Additionally, four bus lines will close and 11 others will cease night service, as well as longer waits for buses and trains at night and reduced staffing at stations. The MTA is currently holding hearings on the new budget, which would take affect in July if a new funding stream cannot be established, such as congestion pricing or East River Bridge Tolls. There are seven more hearings planned in the coming weeks. Russianoff was joined at the funeral by two of the three borough presidents affected by the changes, Scott Stringer of Manhattan and Marty Markowitz of Brooklyn. "The demise of the Z Train is a somber matter--and not only to namesake rapper Jay-Z--but also because it represents a more serious problem," Stringer said. Not to be outdone, Markowitz cracked wise his most beloved borough. "Friends, New Yorkers, straphangers, I come to praise the Z train, not to bury it," he quipped. "Though the Z begins in Queens and ends in Manhattan, it is--like the J--Brooklyn to the core. When trains like the Z die, our city’s economy dies with them. This is why we grieve at this mock funeral today. Let’s hope these are not the Z’s last rights. Long live the Z!" But the high--or low, depending on your reverence--point of the whole affair was Russianoff's recital of a Z-centric version of Psalm 23:
“The MTA is my conductor; the Z Train shall not want … (hopefully). Transit officials maketh the J and Z skip-stop during rush hours, providing faster trips. They leadeth the J and Z quickly in the path from Jamaica, Queens to lower Manhattan. But now the MTA sayeth it is very broke and must still the Z, and addeth an hour more a week commuting time for many riders.” “Yea, though the Z walks through the valley of the shadow of death, it will fear no MTA plan: For thou art with the Z, Governor David Paterson. Thy leadership and thy budget staff, they comfort Z riders. Thou preparest new revenue proposals to stop the death of the Z; thou annointest the Z’s wheels with oil; the Z’s subway cars runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow the Z in all its days and the Z will dwell in the house of MTA subway tracks forever.”
And, lo, I could hearth yon groaning over mine Wifi.