Today’s Headlines

  • The Feds Are Running Out of Money to Invest in Transportation, Again (NYT, WSJ)
  • Mike Lupica Thinks Pedestrian Broadway Is Just a Bloomberg Vanity Project (News)
  • NYers, Tourists Can’t Get Enough of the Times Square Chair Scene (NYT)
  • Where Should BRT Roll Out in Queens? (News)
  • Bronx Student Is Dead After Being Struck By Hit-and-Run Driver and Drunk Driver (News)
  • There’s a Push in Congress to Make Stimulus Funds Available for Transit Service (Yglesias)
  • Groundbreaking on ARC Tunnel Happening Today (NYT, WNYC)
  • Brooklyn Man Spends Night in the Tombs for Biking on Sidewalk (Gothamist)
  • A Sad Tale of NYC Bus System Dysfunction (2nd Ave Sagas)
  • Work Rules Let Some LIRR Maintenance Staff Collect Huge Overtime Payments (Post)
  • Is There Anything ‘Urban’ About These 3-Car Garage Monster Homes Coming to the Bronx? (NYT)
  • RE: Where Should BRT Roll Out in Queens?

    Personally, I think the priority should go to “crosstown” routes as Liu hinted at, but you can bet that all proposals will be met with loud cries of nimbyism from the auto & carriage trade crowd.

  • Brooklyn

    That Times article about the McMansions in the Bronx sounds like it was lifted from The Onion.

  • The Lupica piece — while not as drop-dead stupid as Andrea Peyser’s recent effort — contains an interesting delusion, the notion that pedestrianizing Times Square is some kind of payback for the crib-murder of congestion pricing. Europe is full of pedestrianized city centers and not one of them was created out of revenge. I think the News column illustrates how disconnected windshield perspective is from reality — drivers assume that opening up our city center to foot traffic could only be done out of spite. Lupica should put on his walking shoes and get out more.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I wonder how it is going to affect the relative quality of life, property values and the tax base on the two sides of the Hudson when a new rail tunnel is completed to New Jersey but East Side Access and the Second Avenue subway are terminated because all the money in NY is going to debts and pensions.

    I always thought the Pataki-Silver plan was to complete East Side Access to benefit Long Island but not build the Second Avenue Subway, and wondered what Silver’s backers got in exchange for his allowing the former to go through and delaying the latter.

    But maybe we won’t get either — despite a massive addition to debt “to improve our infrastructure.” More recently, Silver has said that we need to see what kind of economy we’re going to have before deciding if we are going to have an MTA Capital Plan.

    After all, if you only had 400,000 people working in Manhattan, all of them could drive. And if you only had 700,000, the other 300,000 could live in New Jersey. Even if NJ will be broke as well.

  • I read the Lupica article too, and I think that his point is more subtle and less general. Lupica is not a Bloomberg fan. The last eight years have been marked (especially in the schools) by a centralization of power in the mayor’s office. Lupica looks at this like the West Side stadium project, and asks, “Who voted for this? What campaign platform was this part of?”

    It’s a pretty good point. Something I gleaned from one of Larry’s posts back in the runup to CP was that there are two classes of actors in New York civic life: the businessmen and the politicians. Either class will take on liberal or conservative positions, depending on what furthers their interest. Today, businessmen (whose champion is Bloomberg) are focused on using tax dollars to nurture a better educated work force through the school system and to attract and retain highly qualified top level workers through improving city amenities. Politicians are focused on using tax dollars to support their constituents, mostly civil servants and small businessmen, at their present level of privilege.

    Lupica, although he doesn’t necessarily support the individuals in power, is steadfast in his support of the politician class and its objectives.

    The lesson for livable streets advocates that I draw from his article is that it’s important to build a political machine that can field candidates that support livable streets initiatives, rather than relying on the good graces of mayoral appointees like JSK.

  • The poll in the Lupica piece might be the worst part of the article. The Daily News would prefer to focus on the ugly lawn chairs and ignore the positive benefits in the form of less congested sidewalks in a heavily-trafficked pedestrian area.

    Any article that complains of “cheesy lawn chairs” and doesn’t note that attractive, permanent street furniture will be installed if this pilot program works is patently misleading.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Today, businessmen (whose champion is Bloomberg) are focused on using tax dollars to nurture a better educated work force through the school system and to attract and retain highly qualified top level workers through improving city amenities. Politicians are focused on using tax dollars to support their constituents, mostly civil servants and small businessmen, at their present level of privilege.”

    You are giving the executive class and the political class far too much credit.

    The executive class is focused on getting rid of regulations that prevent them from ripping people off in the marketplace, and voting for each other’s stock options while sitting on each other’s boards, allowing those at the top to accumulate unearned dynastic wealth while not paying dividends and bankrupting the companies they oversee.

    And the political class is focused on enriching its pensions through overtime and in the dark deals, while avoiding paying taxes (with pension and health insurance exempt from state and local income taxes no matter how high). To be paid for by lower pay and benefits for younger generations, deteriorating public services, lower taxes, and dratically reduced benefits for the aging when today’s young are older, and face poverty in a bankrupt country.

    In theory citizens get to vote for state legislators, and in theory shareholders get to vote for corporate directors. That is a sham. All our institutions have been captured, and we are heading for an institutional collapse, all while those who suffer the consequences are not paying attention.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Just to follow up, for the past decade corporations borrowed money to buy their stock at bubble prices, to offset all the stock the executives were granting to each other and disguise from shareholders the fact that ownership of the companies and future earnings were taken away from them.

    Now, companies are issuing stock at low prices because they are going broke because of the debts, after the executives walked off with billions.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=acNu9S9r1mGY

    And after a decade of one pension enhancement after another for those cashing in and moving out, culminating in having NYC teachers retire seven years earlier, everyone is praising the state unions and Governor Paterson for their willingness to agree to “shared sacrifice” to reduce the extent to which unaffordable pensions destroy public services Their sacrifice? Lower benefits for FUTURE workers.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSTRE55476120090605

    Note that all the state legislators praising the deal will benefit from the past pension enrichments. Note that we’ve had several rounds of enriched pensions for Generation Greed, followed by lower pay and benefits (and reduced expectations) for new hires since the 1960s. Notice how no one talks about this.

  • Larry, you are 100% right.

    Unfortunately, it’s not a zero-sum game between the two parties. When times are good, both parties can get what they want. When times are bad, the political class is insulated by having won all those perpetual benefits, and the executive class simply packs up and moves somewhere else (or negotiates their fixed costs downward by threatening to pack up and move).

    If it was a zero-sum game, there would be some consensus-building process and opportunities for each side to build more support by appealing via Bloomberg Beach–type projects to those less committed to either side. As it is now, the executives come up with the project, and the political class jumps out to hate it. Same thing for the High Line park (or, in the same neighborhood, the kerfuffle over the West 12th St sanitation depot).

  • Larry Littlefield

    It’s so frustrating. Not only can’t you stop them from doing it, you can’t even get people to talk about what they’ve done, and admit who will suffer the consequences. Perhaps fair and functioning institutions are a historical abberation of the progressive era, and its all over for public services and benefits. You pay taxes because if you don’t they’ll send people with guns to take you away if you don’t, not because you believe in public services and benefits for all.

    Do you remember this article about everyone scamming disability benefits on the LIRR?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/21/nyregion/21lirr.html

    What is amazing is many of the comments. Some people were as saddened as I was:

    “One sure likes to think that all Americans are basically honest and that they work hard, also that they feel some connection to their fellow countrymen and want to be fair. Between Wall Street, government, and now Main Street, we’re finding out this is just not true.”

    and

    “This goes to show that corruption has crept into every institution in America. The past few years has seen corruption in almost every sphere of this country. It’s looking more and more like the third world here (even as the ‘third world’ continues to improve).”

    But many said:

    “Oh please…are we really surprised? Is this sort of thing really new? No. I’ve known about this sort of thing all my life…Should we really expect sainthood in ndividuals? I wonder how many of the people who wrote condemning the specific individuals cited in the article would not avail themselves of the same benefits if they were available.”

    or

    “Gripe, gripe, gripe. Sure, it’s immoral and unjustifiable, but what really bothers most of you is that you haven’t been able to do what these guys have done: figure out how to game the system at retail. It’s minor compared to what the Wall Street criminals have done wholesale. 95 percent of you gripers would do the same thing if you could find an angle.”

    The voice of Albany, of the cloud of flies buzzing around the steaming pile that it is. There are people who really believe that everyone on the planet hopes to go to the grave having profited from making other people’s lives a little worse than they would have been had they never existed.

  • Larry, I’ve met a goodly number of those people and they will swear on their mother’s grave that they work hard every day keeping New York moving or saving New Yorkers from terrorists or whatever and deserve the same pension-after-20-years-of-service benefit traditionally given to military servicemembers.

    Of course, part of accepting the military pension is accepting the possibility of recall to active duty in future conflicts, something which I would like to see on the railroads and buses: “Sorry, we’re not going to hire any new bus drivers this year, instead we’re going to recall all these retirees for 12 months of service.”

    One more thing, the military doesn’t pay overtime, so there’s no way to jack up your pensionable pay in the last couple years by doing meaningless overtime as the state and city workers can and do.

    So how is it that our society awards better pensions to train conductors, token-booth clerks and bus drivers who can perform their duties sitting down than to soldiers who risk their lives on today’s modern battlefield?

  • All those boulevards in Queens with their tree-lined medians make for great BRT stops.

    The Long Island Expressway idea is really good, but I’d build a bus only corridor (that’s camera-enforced or fenced off) that goes through the Queens–Midtown Tunnel. Like the Lincoln Tunnel it should be a “congestion buster” for all the current Express Buses that use the LIE and tunnel.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    I guess the facts just fly out the window once Larry starts bashing some working guy for getting a disability. “Scam” is a pretty accusatory word, fuck due process. There hasn’t been a single disability that had been granted that was proved illegitimate on the LIRR. A couple managers screwed up yes. Yet, people can look at an entirely different situation, overtime abuse, and connect the dots. Larry has managed to drag the entire debate on an otherwise pro-transit site into the same morass of slander that drives all understanding of labor issues in a transit environment that is always going to be 65-70% labor cost. Railroad disabilities have a long and complex history, pickling and canning them, throwing everyone into the same bucket just cheerleads for those who refuse to fund transit.

  • Streetsblog generally takes a protransit line, but that’s no reason why we have to abandon critical thinking when it comes to transit labor relations.

    If there really are so many disabilities, then what is management doing to prevent them in the next generation of workers? Why are there more disability claims filed at LIRR than Metro-North? Why are railroad pensions so generous? The reason Larry and I and others are interested in the answers to these questions is not because we’re trying to run down transit but because we’re paying for it, and we deserve to know what we’re paying for, whether it’s transit, water, parks or police.

  • “pro transit” doesn’t mean “pro corrupt transit management & unions”

    in fact, quite the contrary

  • Glenn

    OMG

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/08/revolt-could-imperil-democratic-control-of-senate/?hp

    Revolt in the NY State Senate – Republicans back in control. Monserrate & Espada Jr joined Senate Republicans against the Democrats. Both under investigation for illegal activities

  • Yowza! Let me go put some popcorn on…

  • Re: Republican revolt in the NY State Senate, this is really bad news. I guess we can kiss marriage equality and meaningful transit reform goodbye. Not that the Senate ever seemed that securely in Democratic hands this year anyway.

  • Shemp

    Nor that Senate Democrats showed the slightest glimmer of giving a shit about transit.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Asking the question why there are more disabilities on LIRR than MINUTE is a lot simpler than proving “corruption” and no one asks anyone to accpt corruption. The disparity is a result of pension plan differences, that does not mean therefor corruption. There are a lot of factors but chiefly Mario Cuomo forced the LIRR unions on strike to force them into the Empire Plan Health Insurance, an inferior plan to the union trust but containing Retiree Medical. The Carrier saved about 600 per worker at the time, the MTA spent that on other needs over time instead of socking it away in the pension. MINUTE the pension is structured entirely differently for the pre 1987 hires. As time goes on this disparity will disappear. One should never ascribe to corruption what can easily be explained by stupity and unintended consequences.

  • Ian Turner

    Niccolo,

    See here for more information on the LIRR disability issue. It is quite clear that these disability claims are not all legitimate:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/24/nyregion/24lirr.html

    Cheers,

    –Ian

  • Actually, Libous and even Bruno seemed more willing to do something about transit than Smith. Skelos seems pretty useless, but maybe more power for Libous will mean some progress on transit funding.

  • glenn

    I see a lot of potential for turnover in the NYC Senate delegation next year. all we need are some average candidates to replace the terrible ones in office now

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Clear to you Ian. Lots of sneers and inuendo, no indictments. Its a big place, no doubt someone over the years took an improper disability. Where are the court cases, where are the people being removed from disability? There are none. A railroad manager lost his job, no workers were denied their previously approved claims. The FBI raided an office, that article is a year old, hearings were held in DC in front of the railroad retirement board and basically the LIRR was laughed out of the office.

    I really don’t care if you believe it or not. The article that reignited this fire was on work rules, a legitimate target, though why the MTA negotiated them is a more important question to answer. The disability “scams” are entirely unproven though, like anyone in the media cares about due process and burden of proof when it comes to MTA workers. Fortunately the courts and the arbitrators have different standards and for the most part laws are still laws and agreements are still honored. Write whatever you want and read into whatever fits into your worldview, its OK with me. I apologize for stepping into your reality.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “If there really are so many disabilities, then what is management doing to prevent them in the next generation of workers?”

    My guess is that the next generation of workers will not get disability pensions even if they are disabled. Perhaps it will be added to Tier V or Tier VI.

    Sorry Prince. What has happened to the public employee pension systems over the last decade is the equivalent of the executives who sit on each other’s corporate boards voting each other a soaring share of national wealth. And the result will be as destructive.

    You can go over to Room 8 and find all kinds of spreadsheets and other boring things no one pays attention to. For example, why is spending on the NYC public schools going up $1 billion but the per child funding for each individual school is being cut 5% and administation is being cut more? Not for a reason anyone (else will talk about).

    The full cost of 25/55 is due to be paid beginning in FY 2010. That is when the federal stimulus money is due to expire. Game over.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Larry, I’ll pass on your room 8 piece though I’m sure the spreadsheets are a lot of fun, compared to the average schmuck you know a lot about pensions. The Railroads however are not NYCERS or NYSERS pensions, nor ERISA nor Taft-Hartley for that matter. And the disabilities are attached entirely to the Railroad Retirement Board for which the workers pay an additional 5% of payroll taxes. That was workers by the way, not “greasemonkeys”. There are two pension formulas on the LIRR that share some of the characteristics of the State plans but are nonetheless substantially different in many respects. There is no 25/55 on the LIRR or MN, however there is a 20/50 for pre-1987 people and a 30/55 for post 1987 people. 1987 there was an 11 day strike that accounted for the loss of the earlier pension structure. Many of the particular characteristics of the LIRR pensions dovetail with disability under the Railway Labor Act. Its dangerous physical work fixing cars, locos and tracks, try it some time, you might like it, if you are a qualified “greasemonkey”.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Its dangerous physical work fixing cars, locos and tracks, try it some time.”

    I don’t begrudge anyone their due. But 98%, including conductors and managers, becomming disabled right after they retire, and all having that disability certified by the same few doctors? One of those doctors might get one of those indictments you speak of, but then again you don’t see many executives going to jail either.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Apparently you have decided that conductors can’t be disabled, you are entitled to you opinion. None of those disabilities have been subsequently disallowed. Since you know more than the actuaries about pensions it follows that you know more about Orthopedics than do the Doctors. Could be a lot of people work with pain everyday in dangerous jobs and just hold on until they can get out. Maybe you know some of those people, I do so I can assume some of them have crossed your path as well. The Freight Railroads, where there are no additional pensions are full of old geezers dodging the equipment. Slow afoot and they are dead. Two died in Selkirk last month.