Today’s Headlines

  • Christie Robs $500 Million From NJ Transit Maintenance to Pay for Operations (Bloomberg)
  • De Blasio: If the State Can’t Fix NYC Transit, the MTA Should Be Restructured (WNYC, Crain’s)
  • Asked About Transit, GOP Mayoral Challenger Nicole Malliotakis Serves Up Word Salad (Crain’s)
  • Nicole Gelinas Warns of Backdoor MTA Debt in Cuomo’s Funding Plan for Moynihan Station (Post)
  • Driver Kills 83-Year-Old Man Crossing Street in Flatlands; Police and Post Blame Victim
  • Turning SUV Driver Critically Injures Two Girls Crossing Street With Their Mom in Staten Island (Post)
  • Victim’s Attorney Accuses MTA Bus Crash Investigators of Manipulating Evidence (Post)
  • Three Motorcyclists Died in Separate Crashes Over the Weekend (News)
  • Advocates Press Bronx and Queens DAs to Decriminalize Fare Evasion (News)
  • 300 People Have Signed TransAlt’s Petition for Protected Bike Lanes on Skillman and 43rd Aves (DNA)
  • Got a Transit Question But Can’t Make the MTA Board Meeting? WNYC Will Ask It for You

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Larry Littlefield

    “New Jersey Transit is using a record $505 million earmarked for maintenance and other capital improvements to plug a hole in its operating budget through mid-2018, continuing the years-long practice of raiding that fund to pay for day-to-day expenses.”

    Disaster, or smart budgeting? You know my views. But there was a huge push to allow exactly this sort of thing nationwide not long ago, despite the potential to cause the death of transit systems in the future. Who cares about the future?

    Meanwhile, with no reporting or objection…see page VI-129

    “Reimbursable” operating expenditures for New York City transit funded by the capital program (largely funded by federal money and debt) totaled $1.2 billion in 2016, and will total $1.25 billion in 2017.

    “Reimbursable” operating expenditures were invented as an emergency budget ruse in the deep early 1990s recession (worse for the Northeast and NY than any since), but kept ever since as Generation Greed took over all elected offices and kept selling off the future in good times and bad. Year after year. Decade after decade.

    They’ve got all this sort of thing buttoned up and under Omerta in New York, because everyone who is anyone is in on it.

  • qrt145

    Maybe it happened too late to make it into today’s headlines, but a track fire on the A/B/C/D line in Harlem caused lots of trouble this morning:

  • Komanoff

    Interesting history, Larry. But I’d be very surprised if early-90s recession was worse in NY/NE, or anywhere for that matter, than 08-09 recession. What’s your evidence?

  • Larry Littlefield

    Copy and paste doesn’t work, but in NYC from 1990 to 1991 annual average total private employment fell by 176,200 (5.9%), followed by a decrease of 84,600 (3.0%) from 1991 to 1992. BLS, state and local employment data. I believe there were prior losses as well, but the online data I have access to at the office starts in 1990. The recovery was weak too. The city almost went bankrupt (again) in the mid-1990s before recovery took hold.

    There was only one year of job loss on an annual average basis in the latest recession, by 103,000 (3.2%) from 2008 to 2009. Other parts of the country were hit much, much harder than the Northeast. The bailouts helped, I guess.

    Even the early 2000s recession was worse for NYC — minus 21,300 from 2000 to 2001, minus 111,500 from 2001 to 2002, and minus 40,300 from 2002 to 2003. Still not as bad as the early 1990s — and it would have been even milder were it not for 9/11.

    There are seasonal fluctuations from month to month, with gains through Christmas and a big drop in January. Still the January 1991 drop was one for the record books. Other things really went south then too. Adjusted for inflation, housing prices fell by more than a third — co-ops and condos by half. After that experience I thought there would never be another housing bubble. Wrong! People who bought close to the peak were underwater for years, saving enough money just so they could sell, bring money to closing, and get out having lost that and their original downpayment.

    As for the “reimbursable” expenditures I knew all about it when it happened. I worked for NYCT from 1986-88 as well as 2001 to 2004. And I heard when it was approved. Former NYCT President Kieper, who followed Gunn, approved it.

  • vnm

    From the motorcyclists story, look at the lengths the police and media will go to exonerate motorists!

    “The driver of the Hyundai did not cause the fatal accident — but he was arrested anyway, because he happened to be drunk when Cornejo rolled under his stopped car, police said.”

  • Driver

    “Cornejo flew off his 2014 Yamaha and slid under a 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe that was stopped at a red light.”
    If this account is true, the motorist did nothing wrong except for operating while intoxicated, which he was arrested for. Exonerated from what?

  • Larry Littlefield

    Back home, and here you are, in a chart.

    Salomon Brothers released a NY is doomed report in the early 1990s, saying the 1980s revival was a temporary false dawn due to particular circumstances. I figured if NYC survived the 1970s it could survive the early 1990s.

    Look at that boom that got rolling in 1997, with only occasional interruptions. And the city and state were selling off the future that entire time, no matter how much money rolled in, to benefit those cashing in and moving out.

  • vnm

    It seems to me that’s a pretty big “if.” I’d rather see the police do a little bit more due diligence before almost immediately pronouncing the drunken operator of a piece of potentially dangerous machinery totally uninvolved in a fatal scenario.

    It just seems like the NYPD has a reflexive urge to explain away any motorist wrongdoing at the first opportunity. Even when a motorist is arrested, they’re at pains to say why what he/she was doing really wasn’t that bad.

  • Komanoff

    Thanks, Larry. I’m half-persuaded, which is 49 points better than my usual 1 percent. What’s the source of the chart? And, for what it’s worth, my and others’ (heartless?) measure of recession depth is GDP, not employment. For the 6 or 7 quarters making up the nadir of the 08-09 recession, U.S. GDP fell an average of 0.6%. For a similar period around 91, U.S. GDP rose an average of 0.1%. (Yes, that’s national.) But point taken. Thanks.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The source of the data is the Current Employment Survey, a monthly survey of establishments, the one that makes the news every month. The latest data is taken from the BLS website.

    But, as I said, the data is only available online from 1990 on. Back in the day it was all on paper. So as far as I know, the only person with a spreadsheet like this one is me.

    You may have heard recently that the 1970s were an underrated economic decade, compared with the last one. But look at NYC (and all the other older central cities)! The suburbs and Sunbelt were still booming the 1970s.

    Similarly, the early 1990s recession primarily hit the Northeast and California, along with the commercial real estate industry. Different sectors and parts of the country aren’t always on the same economic cycle. NYC is generally on the same cycle as London, not Peoria.

    In the Great Recession New York got back the jobs lost in a little more than one year. There are other places where employment is still below the peak. NYC is even much better off than New Jersey and Connecticut. The Great Recession is more like the early 1980s recession, which devastated manufacturing and the Midwest, but didn’t do as much damage here. NY, San Francisco, metro Boston have all been booming right along.

  • Komanoff

    Thanks for the extra info and numbers. Am still trying to wrap my head around them. Was the NYC job loss a (somewhat delayed) primarily a reaction to the Oct ’87 stock market crash? Stunning.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Yes, that and the junk bond collapse and commercial real estate collapse. You also had a tech bust in Boston, and the “peace dividend” clobbered what had been the defense industries of metro Boston and California.

    But there were also structural trends. That was the first recession to hit college graduates, and their average incomes have been falling since. Falling average pay first hit HS dropouts after 1973, then HS graduates after the early 1980s “deindustrialization” and oil patch wreck of the mid-1980s, then college graduates after 1990. In that census year, the number of college graduates in the U.S. exceeded the number employed in professional and managerial occupations for the first time. In the 1990s only those with graduate degrees got ahead, and then in the 2000s only the one percent. And now the 0.1 percent.

    Then there was IT. There used to be hundreds of thousands employed in “pink collar” back office jobs. IT allowed all that to be automated or outsourced. My wife is a bank examiner. She’d go around to banks in the early 1990s and find that everyone she had seen the year before — whole floors with hundreds of workers — was gone. Several huge banks nearly went bust on commercial real estate, and merged into fewer, larger banks. Manufacturers Hanover plus JP Morgan plus Chemical plus Chase Manhattan = today’s JP Morgan Chase, for example. Things really went south when the jump bond boom ended. Drexel Burham Lambert — gone in 1989.

    You may not remember how bad it was here then. But because things weren’t as bad on the coasts this time, the Dems lost the 2016 campaign because they didn’t know how bad things still are elsewhere.

  • Komanoff

    Very enlightening, Larry, thanks!

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