Archive for MTA

Il Bocca Al Lupo

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on August 11, 2009 by wally426

11-08-2009  Brooklyn, NY

As most of you know, I love subways. Even the odd smells that frequently emanate during summertime, squealing brakes, malfunctioning doors, scratchy intercoms, noisy panhandlers, rush-hour cars packed like sardine cans, sticky floors, wet seats and arrogant Jesus freaks that suddenly start preaching at the top of their lungs. Despite all of this, riding the subway from A to B is usually one of the very few moments of solace I get during hectic work weeks. It’s the one time to quietly listen to music, read a book or simply ponder the past, present and future.

During the early 70’s, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) was having somewhat of a renaissance. After years of neglect, the city decided to revamp the system by renovating stations, introducing new trains, and adding employees to assist riders during their trips. Less than ten years later, these changes became an after thought. The city had lost too much money during the economic downturn and couldn’t fund the MTA. Most projects fell by the wayside and the subways began a slow downturn that has continued into today’s era.

Today, we have a system that is a shell of its former self. Not only has the MTA raised prices, but the service is an absolute mess. If customers want to travel after dark on weeknights or during the weekends, they should expect to take numerous trains where they usually need just one. Express trains run local and most lines have been bastardized to run on others. Basically, all transit maps are null and void because they serve no purpose. I’ve gotten calls from friends who have lived here for years and ended up in odd places because the maps weren’t sound. In a nutshell, nothing can be trusted in the New York City subway system.

To top it off, pension plans for MTA employees have sunk the organization so far in debt, it’s nearly impossible to get out of the red. I hate seeing 70 year-old people standing on a crowded, delayed train, paying more so that 55 year-old MTA employees can live like kings on the city’s arm. The budgets are also terribly faulty, with strange surpluses coming here and there while statements come back bloody during budgeting season. Corruption is rampant. One example I wrote about earlier this year concerned the Atlantic Yards project. For land that was appraised at $214 million, the MTA took the absolute lowest bid of $100 million. When that wasn’t paid, they didn’t break contract and try to negotiate with other parties, they lowered the original amount to $20 million upfront (with the remaining 80 million to be paid over the course of 22 years)!! Who ends up paying for that difference? The commuters who rely on the subways every day. As long as buffoons like Howard H. Roberts continue to head the Authority, the downward spiral will not cease.

Il Boca Al Lupo is an Italian phrase that means “Good Luck”, but literally translates as “into the wolf’s mouth”. The appropriate response to this is Crepi Lupo, or “May the wolf die”. In all my years of riding the subways, I’ve never seen this much chaos and disruption in service. Every time you ride the subways after dark or on a weekend, you’re literally going into the wolf’s mouth and need as much luck as possible to reach your destination without a service change sabotaging your trip. These recent pitfalls have literally turned the NYCTS into a dangerous place… a reeking, craggy, unreliable cesspool of kickbacks and faulty budgets. Considering this, I only have one thing to say about them… Crepi Lupo!


The Rat’s Nest

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 22, 2009 by wally426


22-01-2009       Brooklyn, NY

Complete Destruction

It was an icy day.
We buried the cat,
then took her box
and set fire to it
in the back yard.
Those fleas that escaped
earth and fire
died by the cold.

~William Carlos Williams

1958 was a terrible year for the borough of Brooklyn. The brittle glue that held this gritty city together had been violently chipped apart. The glue was one topic of interest that was spoken of in back alleys, subway trains, barber shops and on brownstone stoops. This one uniting factor that sent people into a collective tizzy was, of course, the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers. After an ambitious plan by the team’s owner, Walter O’Malley, to build a state-of-the-art stadium over the Atlantic Avenue rail yards was squashed by Robert Moses (A.K.A. Bobby Kickback), the team was forced to relocate to Chávez Ravine in Los Angeles. Who knows what would have happened if the stadium had been built? Perhaps the borough wouldn’t have fell into economic decline? Perhaps the city’s center would have bustled with life? All we know for sure is that the rail yards have laid there like an old dying cat for some time. The fate of this pitiful animal has been the subject of intense debate over the last fifty years. 

In 2004, the debate was once again aroused after a successful businessman by the name of Bruce Ratner acquired the New Jersey Nets basketball team. The main goal of this acquisition was to bring a professional team back to a place where Ratner had attempted other ventures, Brooklyn, NY. Ratner’s lofty goals not only included the arena over the Atlantic rail yards, but to also the construction of 16 Frank Gehry designed high rise condominiums (two of the largest buildings were set to offer “affordable” HUDD housing in an undisclosed amount of units) and a public green. The deal was promoted to local residents as a chance to put Brooklyn back on the map. It was a deal that would provide low-income housing, jobs to city workers, and a business center in Brooklyn that bustled with commerce. The plan initially had many high profile proponents: Mayor Bloomberg, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, and partial team owner and Brooklyn native, Jay Z.

As most things go, the promises seemed far fetched. Soon cracks in Ratner’s plan began to show. As the footprint for the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA) developed, it became evident to residents of Prospect Heights and Fort Greene that their homes were either in the shadow of these huge edifices, or directly underfoot. Not only that, but the designs were hideous (in my opinion). I mean, look at these things:

As funding began to dry up for the project, the amount of affordable housing that was slated to be set aside suddenly dropped. It also became evident that the majority of this so-called low-income housing was relegated to families who made a “moderate” household income of $50-115k/year. Meanwhile, the average household income in Brooklyn is $32k. This begs the question, to whom are these units affordable to? The promises of jobs to local workers came into question as well. When Ratner’s first project (Metrotech) went up in downtown Brooklyn back in the 80’s, he’d promised scores of jobs for locals. His word proved unworthy, however, and he outsourced the jobs to his cronies outside of the city. What’s to say that he won’t do the same with this project?

Worst of all, the whole plan reeks of kickbacks and shady deals. The MTA, who owned the land over the rail yards, sold it to Ratner for $100 million. This seems odd that the land had been appraised for over $200 million and there was another bid on the table for $150 million. Why would the MTA willingly throw away that kind of money? Especially with the current budget crisis that has them raising fares and cutting service!! In short, who ends up paying the $50 million out? The residents of New York City. Additionally, people who own and rent in the footprint aren’t exactly jumping for joy at the prospect of having their beautiful brownstones completely demolished. If this was an endeavor set forth by the federal government or State of New York, then eminent domain could effectively be exercised. However, this is an attempt at a blatant land grab by an individual. Not only is it abuse of eminent domain but also a violation of the residents’ fifth amendment rights.

So what will become of the old cat laying in Brooklyn’s center?

As it currently stands, the shifting economy has also shifted the feasibility of the project. Ratner has not only scaled down the plans for the arena and surrounding buildings, but has also requested to cut funds given to the MTA (another slap in the face to commuters). As he still hasn’t paid the $100 million for the land, the space can technically go back on the auction block until a more sound investor comes along. Ratner seems to be back on his heels right now. With increased opposition from the community, he could be pushed off the rat’s nest he’s attempting to build in the heart of Brooklyn. For all those willing to further the opposition’s cause, you can sign the online petition and let your voice be heard…

¡El Pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido!