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OPINION: Subway, rail extensions shortchange outer boroughs

East Side Access tunnel photo via Wikipedia

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Anyone who rides the subways today and sees the advertisements and public service announcements inside the train cars knows about the MTA’s biggest current projects. These include the extension of the Number 7 train to the Javits Center, the East Side Access project for the Long Island Rail Road, the (abbreviated) Second Avenue Subway on the Upper East Side and the Fulton Transit Center in Lower Manhattan.

The No. 7 train will serve the new development project on the Far West Side as well as the Javits Center. The Fulton Transit Center will make it easier to transfer from one line to another in Lower Manhattan. The Second Avenue Subway will primarily help residents of the Upper East Side, and the East Side Access project will mainly help Long Island residents who work in Midtown or near Grand Central.

Missing, however, are projects that will directly help residents of Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens.

True, in the case of Brooklyn, there have been some MTA projects within the past 10 years that have resulted in definite improvements. The new Coney Island terminal is a definite improvement over the old, rundown structure. The revamped Atlantic Avenue complex significantly reduces crowding by allowing passengers more space to walk as they transfer from one line to another. And the new transfer at Jay Street-MetroTech allows more possibilities for transit riders. Turning to the Bronx, we see a new MetroNorth station at Yankee Stadium.

Still, the current series of improvements is definitely Manhattan-centric. Why are we still running four-car trains on the G line? What happened to the plans for an F train express? Why don’t we see plans to connect the Second Avenue Subway to the Bronx or Brooklyn—both of which were contained in the original plans of 1972? How is it that plans to extend the Nostrand Avenue line south of the Brooklyn College “junction,” a working concern before the 1975 fiscal crash, were never revived?

Unfashionable parts of Manhattan are similarly penalized. The version of the Second Avenue Subway that is currently on the table terminates “temporarily” at 96th Street, traditionally the dividing line between the Upper East Side and East Harlem. True, the MTA calls for the line to proceed up to 125th Street in the second stage, but in this day of fiscal cutbacks, I’ll believe it when I see it. Expansion of the line down to the Lower East Side and Chinatown is contained in a stage so far in the future that I’ll be shocked if I see it in my lifetime.

All in all, the MTA’s current vision is a Bloomberg-esque vision of the New York City metro area, geared to the needs of large institutions such as the Javits Center and the financial markets, the Manhattan neighborhoods where Bloomberg’s “peer group” lives, and suburban commuters who pay higher fares than city riders. I have nothing against any of these groups, but the needs of others are short-changed.

That’s why Borough President Marty Markowitz’s suggestion, which he made several years ago, that the borough presidents get to nominate one or two members each to the MTA board is so vitally important.  In that way, proposals to help residents of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island will at least come to the table, even if not every one is approved.

October 7, 2013 - 10:30am


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