Category Archives: New York State

New York State; it’s Railroads, Tourism, History

There are two important WebSites for New York State. New York State is somewhat of a tourist site. It opens with a picture of the Saratoga Race Track. Then sections on New York City, followed by Cooperstown, and the Adirondacks. Followed by the Catskill Mountains and the Erie (Barge) Canal. Then Albany, Schenectady, Utica and Syracuse. Finally an article on the Hudson Valley.

The second WebSite is all about New York Railroads and the NY Central Railroad.

This WebSite starts out with short stories on the many historic railroads of New York State. It concludes with many of the New York Central properties.

We hope you enjoy both WebSites.

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Vintage private railcars are mustered at Albany-Rensselaer Train Station

Rensselaer

Dome cars, lounges, observation and sleeper cars, many painted in the livery of their former railroads, gathered at the Rensselaer rail station Wednesday, preparing for a multi-day journey that will wind through the Adirondacks, the Southern Tier, the Berkshires and Green Mountains.

They’ll end up in Burlington, Vt., for the 40th annual convention of the American Association of Private Rail Car Owners.

Before then, the owners of these cars, the oldest of which dates from 1911, will see a considerable amount of the Northeast. Hauled by two Amtrak locomotives, they’ll travel to Utica and then to Thendara, back to Utica and onto Geneva, then head east to Springfield, Mass., and Rutland before arriving at Burlington.

The owners, rail enthusiasts all, can talk about the history of their individual cars. They’ve often spent years restoring them. Former association executive director Borden Black has just acquired a car from Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, which has ceased operation.

Dick Johnston of Phoenix travels in a dome car built in 1955 by The Budd Company, once a major U.S. railcar manufacturer, and used on the Empire Builder, which runs between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest.

Amtrak took over the route, and the equipment, in May 1971, and used it until it was replaced by newly manufactured bilevel Superliners in the late 1970s.

Coordinating a trip like this can be a challenge. Taylor Johnson, the association’s vice president of transportation, had planned a stop in Saratoga Springs and a trip via Whitehall to Rutland. But when the Canadian Pacific balked at hosting the train, Vermont rail officials and the Finger Lakes Railway stepped up with an alternate routing.

The private rail car owners support the continued operation of Amtrak, and Johnson said their train “is a reflection of American history.” The owners often make their cars available to passengers looking for a unique travel experience.

Some of the cars have private bedrooms, dining rooms and kitchens, as well as showers and flat-screen TVs.

The organization hopes to draw attention to plans by New York state to remove the tracks from Thendara north to Lake Placid, a move it opposes.

Robert Donnelly, the association president, said the private rail cars often are owned by groups of shareholders.

Among the cars participating in this year’s convention is the Georgia 300, a platform observation car that once operated on the Crescent Limited between New York and New Orleans.

The car has been used by Jimmy Carter, George H.W. and George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and by Kerry/Edwards campaign, said another association member, LeAnne Feagin. The Obamas boarded it in Philadelphia, picking up Joe Biden and his wife in Delaware, to travel to the 2009 inauguration.

Albany Times Union

Sputtering subways threaten Cuomo’s infrastructure image

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was less immediately invested in the city’s subway system, despite warnings that the aging system was falling into disrepair.

Dressed in pale dress trousers and work boots, Gov. Andrew Cuomo grasped an industrial vacuum known as a Vac-Tron and sucked up a pile of litter from the subway tracks in Union Square last week.

The event was ostensibly about cleaning up garbage and reducing track fires, but it was also about tidying up the governor’s carefully crafted image as the kind of executive who can make the trains run on time.

In New York City, where the subways have suffered a meltdown over the past six months, Cuomo’s name has instead become synonymous with the system’s neglect. In polls, riders have blamed him for the deteriorating service, and a Twitter hashtag #CuomosMTA has catalogued the system’s problems throughout the summer. “Tired of New York’s subways? Blame Andrew Cuomo” read one New York Times op-ed.

The bad press comes just as Cuomo is trying to build a case for reelection next year, and, perhaps more importantly, introduce himself to a national audience as a master-builder of infrastructure and a viable challenger to President Donald Trump in 2020.

Two weeks before the subway cleanup, Cuomo stood atop the new Tappan Zee Bridge with a reporter from “CBS This Morning.” “What made America is what we built —the railroads, the tunnels, the bridges, the skyscrapers,” he said on the national morning show. “We can’t lose that. If we lose that, we lose who we are.”

Before this summer, Cuomo’s fondness for flashy mega-projects — be it a new Tappan Zee Bridge, or a new LaGuardia Airport, a new highway bridge outfitted with dancing LED lights, or a new train hall for Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road — was a relatively uncontroversial way to present himself as a get-things-done governor.

Now, that reputation comes with a catch.

“The subway thing is so profound because it undermines his very raison d’etre,” said one Democratic strategist, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid earning the governor’s ire. “His whole core message about himself is that he takes on these tough challenges.”

At the opening for the new Tappan Zee last month, Cuomo recounted all the obstacles he had overcome in building a bridge over the Hudson River.

“Twenty years they talked about it. And nothing was done. And it became a symbol of procrastination, incompetence, government that just talks and government that can’t act,” the governor said, after arriving in a lemonade-colored Corvette.

The 62-year-old span was known to be in need of replacement by the time Cuomo took office in 2011, but the previous three governors had simply pushed for short-term maintenance.

As Cuomo tells it, when he asked his Cabinet for big ideas that summer, one suggested he could “say he was going to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge.” What about actually doing it, the governor asked? Using a one-time design-build authorization, a $1.6 billion federal loan and cash wrung from foreign banks, he actually put the project in motion.

Cuomo was less immediately invested in the city’s subway system, despite warnings that the aging system was falling into disrepair.

In 2011, the same year he committed to rebuilding the Tappan Zee, Cuomo swept $100 million from the MTA, according to an analysis by the state comptroller.

In 2014, after Cuomo hosted then-President Barack Obama at the new Tappan Zee worksite, he resisted the MTA’s proposed $32 billion capital plan, most of which was to go toward keeping the sprawling system in good repair, calling the proposal “bloated.”

The following year, shortly after Cuomo sent $1.3 billion to the New York State Thruway Authority, which is building the Tappan Zee, he announced he had cut the “fat” from the MTA’s long-term repair plan, to the tune of $2.2 billion.

A spokesman, Jon Weinstein, said Cuomo has been focused on infrastructure since he took office in 2011, and he cited the new Tappan Zee Bridge, as well as Cuomo’s effort to rebuild LaGuardia Airport and expand the Long Island Rail Road, along with his recent commitments to the MTA’s capital plan.

The governor “believes New Yorkers deserve subways that run better and more reliably which is why he has secured record investment in the MTA – $8.3 billion in state funds for this Capital Plan and $5 billion a year in operating support – and brought in a Chairman who is a proven manager,” Weinstein said in a statement.

On New Year’s Eve, Cuomo held a public event to celebrate the opening of the first three stops of the Second Avenue Subway on the Upper East Side and bragged about his ability to deliver the project by a self-imposed deadline (even if it was, on a per-mile basis, the most expensive subway ever built).

“They said, ‘Well why did you need to get this done on deadline?’” he asked. “We needed to get this done on the deadline because we’re New York and when we set a deadline, we’re going to get it done. We needed to show people that government works and we can still do big things and great things.”

But when the subways began to melt down in the spring, Cuomo initially disavowed his control of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and sought to place blame on his rival, Mayor Bill de Blasio, saying the governor merely had “representation on the board” — along with New York City and several surrounding counties.

The hands-off approach did not play well with city voters.

In a July poll, Siena College found that Cuomo’s approval rating had dropped 17 points in two months. The falloff was concentrated in the MTA service area, the poll showed: Job approval declined 27 points in the MTA region but ticked down by only a single point in upstate areas.

The governor’s critics were quick to seize on the perceived vulnerability.

“The governor should step up, say once again he’s responsible — because he seems to change that message every week or two, whether he’s responsible or not,” de Blasio said during a news conference held on the subway in July. “He’s responsible. It’s clear. Just take ownership and fix the problem.”

America Rising, a Republican opposition research group, has gleefully touted the decline in Cuomo’s poll numbers as evidence he’s unfit to run for president in 2020, saying his “growing unpopularity means he’s not the national contender he once was.”

In recent months, Cuomo has labored to show his attention to the problem.

In late June, he declared an MTA state of emergency, said he would reorganize the authority, argued it needed more money, not less, and as a down payment, promised to put an additional $1 billion into the system. He has also promised to find new revenue sources, even embracing what he had long regarded as a political third rail: congestion pricing.

His subway chairman has since launched an $836 million subway stabilization plan and hinted at a longer-term, possibly $8 billion, system fix, one that would begin, at earliest, in 2020.

And, in typical Cuomo fashion, the governor has taken to the tracks himself, promising the MTA would “remove all the trash and all the debris” — something he claimed hasn’t been done in “over a hundred years.”

The hope in Cuomoland is that the governor has “taken the sting out” of this so-called summer of hell and that it will be remembered as just that — a summer, according to someone familiar with the administration’s thinking.

Asked for comment, Weinstein said the administration is committed to repairing the city’s subway system and “will keep focus on it until it is a system worthy of” New Yorkers.

In the meantime, a Siena poll released last week showed voters remain frustrated with the governor’s handling of mass transit. Only 27 percent of city voters gave him positive marks on mass transit, and 71 percent gave a rating of either “fair” or “poor.”

“The subways are serving extraordinary numbers of people every day and are the heart and soul of the city economy, which [is] the heart and soul of the state economy,” said Gerald Benjamin, a political scientist at SUNY New Paltz. “And they’re in trouble. That’s a fundamental challenge.”

Politico.com

Last Steam Passenger Train In New York State

Saw the following in Mark Tomlonson’s list of important dates in New York Central history.

“September 11, 1952 The last New York Central steam-powered commuter train leaves White Plains for Dover (NY), marking the end of steam on all NYC Divisions feeding New York City. (Some sources say September 13.)”

Actually, Dover Plains, not Dover.

We already covered the last steam in New York State:
https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/last-steam-on-ny-central-lines-east/. But that was a milk train (empties) from Harmon to Utica.

Downtown Brooklyn’s Champion Aims to Take It Up a Notch

When Regina Myer took over last October as president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, the neighborhood was already reaching for the sky. Residential skyscrapers had arrived; now comes a wave of office towers. As head of the not-for-profit, membership organization, Myer’s role is to ensure all that development meshes well, from the skyline down to the street level. An urban planner by training, she earlier directed redevelopment of the North Brooklyn waterfront, helped plan Manhattan’s huge Hudson Yards project, shaped the rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn and helmed the creation of Brooklyn Bridge Park. In her new role, Myer, a longtime Park Slope resident, intends to make downtown the most dynamic neighborhood in the city. The Bridge talked with her about her mission:
1. Downtown Brooklyn has really arrived. How did it happen?

You know, Downtown Brooklyn was always the center of the borough. It’s where our county courts are, and our borough president has his seat. But until MetroTech [was built] it didn’t have a real center for offices. What it did have is arguably the best mass transit in the city. The 2004 rezoning [allowing the construction of residential towers] based its vision for the future on a few things. One was that there was room for expansion, especially places like Willoughby Street and Flatbush Avenue. But it also realized that there was so much strength in Brooklyn already to build upon, and that a mixed-use neighborhood with residential [apartments] in a high-rise format would make sense for this area, given the transit system and phenomenal access to culture, parks and shopping.

What we’re seeing now, with all the construction fences coming down, is that we have a true mixed-use neighborhood that’s able to take advantage of all of those aspects. We have new offices coming to locate here. There are finally places to go have lunch and to have a business dinner and a drink after work.

Another thing is the retail. Fulton Street has long been one of New York’s great retail corridors. And it’s seeing a phenomenal resurgence now that we have a Macy’s that’s renovated and with the opening of City Point and its strong package of shopping and dining options that cater to downtown’s diverse population, as well as visitors from across the borough and around the city. There’s a really new, great energy to Fulton Street.
2. Where do you want to take it from here?

I want Downtown Brooklyn to be viewed as New York City’s great, great downtown. And we have so much potential to get there. I think as new buildings open, as new tenants come to Downtown Brooklyn, we also have the ability to focus on the landscape and the streetscape and make sure that the pedestrian environment really ties everything together.

I think we all know that we can be better connected. We can be better connected to the waterfront, for instance. Proposals like the Strand [pedestrian gateway] are very much on our mind because that proposal put forth this idea that the downtown should be connected to the waterfront and to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Our connections to the Navy Yard can be strong and meaningful as it evolves to a place where there’s more and more job growth. It’s a place where we can provide access to people at Farragut Houses and people at Whitman and Ingersoll houses to the resources of Downtown Brooklyn and the jobs in the Navy Yard. From New Lab [in the Navy Yard] to Metro Tech is not a far walk, but it’s not a pleasant walk right now.

TheBridgeBK

NY City Suburban Area Realtors: THIS IS FOR YOU

Buyers LOVE the suburbs, but only when the commute is good to great!

Enter the “MAYBROOK LINE”. Years ago it was THE major freight railroad into New England. It went from Maybrook, New York; across the Great Bridge at Poughkeepsie; from Beacon across New York Syaye to Danbury and on to Cedar Hill in New Haven. We have a great historical document:
https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/the-maybrook-line-across-dutchess-county/.

Over the years, railroad freight habits changed, mostly through mergers. The bridge at Poughkeepsie burned and the railroad line became dormant and is owned by New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

For a great look at today’s Beacon Line, we will refer you to Emily Moser’s great WebSite “I Ride The Harlem Line”

This is her map of the area we are covering.

Occasional excursions, equipment moves and storage, and maintenance with hi rail vehicles, have all taken place, albeit infrequently. Though the rails itself may not be in use, running along parts of the line is fiber optic cabling that is integral to Metro-North operations.

MTA issued a “Request for Expressions of Interest” regarding “all or part” of the line in 2016. But nothing came of it.

No, it is not practical as a rail line. What it could be practical for is a HYPERLOOP

This is the plan for a HYPERLOOP between Louisville and Chicago. Several options would work with the HYPERLOOP: The simplest would be Beacon on the Hudson Line, to Southeast on the Harlem Line.

Of course, the HYPERLOOP depends on clients! LOT of empty land along the route.

Alan Chartock’s The Capitol Connection: How Cuomo can turn it around

I was recently considering what Andrew Cuomo could do to turn his low polling numbers around. As I have explained in the past, he doesn’t get great numbers upstate. He’s a Democrat, albeit a middle of the roader, and that doesn’t play that well above the burbs. Now he needs to worry about how he’s doing in the Big Apple and its environs.

The Cuomo name has always been gold in the city. His papa Mario has been worshiped as a semi-deity there for years. Since most people know little or nothing about New York State politics, the Cuomo mantel was all that was necessary for Andrew to get approval. But that was before the “Summer of Hell” on the New York subways and the commuter trains in and out of the city. As the appointing authority of the MTA, Andrew took credit for building the Second Avenue Subway so he couldn’t then deny his role in the collapse of the subway system even though he tried to do exactly that. Clearly, he and his cohorts had the mistaken impression that Donald Trump might help out by financing some of the work necessary to repair the mess in the sweltering, accident prone underground system.

So Andrew made sure that Joe Lhota, a real expert on things subway, now heads the beleaguered MTA. That was a good idea and Cuomo and his colleagues deserve credit for the appointment. The problem for Andrew is that Lhota, who already has experience heading the MTA and ran for mayor against — guess who — Bill De Blasio, is a Republican and a Giuliani protégé. It’s no secret that Cuomo has personal problems with De Blasio so he grabbed an opportunity to take a shot at his mayoral nemesis by elevating Lhota to the chairmanship of the MTA. Cuomo never seems to learn that people are fed up with his war on De Blasio. But he gets points for the Lhota appointment because the guy is good. If people perceive that Cuomo is moving aggressively in a bi-partisan manner they may return to the pro-Cuomo fold.

If I were giving Andrew some other advice, I think I would suggest that he do more of what Papa Mario did. Cuomo, like Donald Trump, seems to have his own private war with the press. Papa Cuomo had regular press conferences which he seemed to relish. His son does not. Papa Cuomo was eloquent. Junior is anything but. If you are to win popularity in New York, you need the press on your side. My unsolicited advice to Andrew would be to work on his communication skills. He should make friends by just being honest, accessible, transparent, and open with the people who write and talk about him. That way he would be the beneficiary of a certain kind of respect and camaraderie that often exists on both sides of that relationship. Maybe Cuomo feels that because the press as an institution polls so low, he can afford to ignore them. What’s more, Cuomo should avoid trying to buy loyalty from some members of the press by giving them unfettered access. He tried that in the beginning of his governorship with disastrous results.

As long as I am giving him advice, let me add that he has to be very careful about the amount of power he gives his subordinates. One of the reasons why his numbers are so low is that several of his former close associates face trials that could land them in jail for a good part of their lives. Not only that, his treatment of his fellow political actors like Tom DiNapoli, the state Comptroller, and Eric Schneiderman, the Attorney General, has been disgraceful. People don’t like that. He needs to learn how to play nice. Maybe then his numbers will rise from the low point where they now reside.

Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at alan@wamc.org.

He publishes in the Troy Record

Friday Is “Subway Day”! Start Of A Trend?

Just like some bloggers have established Thursday as “Door” Day, we are starting Friday as “Subway” day.

We’ve been over the ways modern infrastructure would help ease the crush of record ridership. But there’s no doubt, the subway system needs to expand. “Sure, it’s necessary! We have more people.”

So why does it cost 4 times per mile than in London?

Then it is not like Dubai, NY City has cables that Thomas Edison put in.

We also have high labor costs here because it’s an expensive city but also we have unions that aren’t necessarily the most efficient way to build a new subway.

And we’ve been building stations that are nice and big but more cavernous than they really need to be. On Second Avenue, the stations account for more than half the total budget.
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McDonald’s doesn’t have its own TV show. Neither does Burger King. Shake Shack doesn’t have one either. That leaves Wahlburgers as the only hamburger restaurant chain with its own TV show that you could describe as a program-length commercial for the brand. Then they own the new Wahlburgers at 85th and Second. This new location seems reasonably successful so far. Plus, it’s near the new Second Avenue subway on a portion of the avenue that has been fixed up considerably. Well played, Wahlbergs.

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Empty stores plague the streets of the Upper East Side like an epidemic. Known affectionately as the ‘Gold Coast’, this area was home to trendy store front like American Apparel, Reebok, BCBG MAXAZRIA and oldies like Filenes Basement, all of whom have since shut. in July there were 82 vacant storefronts along Madison, Lexington, Third and Second avenues between 57th and 96th streets. “That is a lot, and there’s probably 20 percent more that’s on the market,” with space that is occupied but available for lease. It was a LOOOONG Wait for the 2nd Avenue Subway!

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Council Membersare scratching their heads on funding. The hearing comes amid an increasingly testy fight between the city and state over the MTA’s recently announced $836 million rescue plan for the crisis affecting the city’s subways. MTA Chair Joe Lhota, recently appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, has insisted that the city provide $456 million for the emergency upgrade plan to stabilize the system over the next year. Mayor Bill de Blasio has refused to bear those costs, pointing to an equal amount of city-issued funds that have been diverted since 2011 by the state from their intended use in MTA operations. De Blasio on Monday proposed increasing taxes on the wealthy to fund the MTA, but the proposal was quickly dismissed by state Senate Republicans who would have to approve it. “You guys do not know how to spend a dime, how could you spend a billion dollars?”

Talk of a 2020 run for president? First Cuomo must deal with 2018

All those newspapers in New York City and it takes the Watertown Daily Times (a day-long trip from New York City) to put the current subway troubles in perspective.

Read this article…..(and Mr. Cuomo too)

They summed everything up better than I could!

Mayor de Blasio wants to tax the “1%” to fix the Subway

The mayor of New York City wants to tax the wealthiest 1 percent to fund repairs and improvements to the beleaguered subway system.

The proposal comes as Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, both Democrats, continue to squabble over responsibility for paying for repairs to the nation’s largest transit system that has seen growing delays, mechanical failures, power outages and even derailments.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota recently unveiled an emergency plan to stabilize the system. The governor offered to split the cost of the plan with the city, but the mayor refused to commit money to support it.

The mayor’s tax plan is meant as a long-term solution, not a quick fix, he said. It aims to generate nearly $800 million annually with the bulk of the money going toward capital upgrades to subways and buses, and must be approved by state lawmakers. A formal announcement was expected Monday.

“Instead of searching for a quick-fix that doesn’t exist, or simply forking over more and more of our tax dollars every year, we have come up with a fair way to finance immediate and long-term transit improvement,” de Blasio said in a statement Sunday.

The tax would increase the top income tax rate from about 3.9 percent to 4.4 percent for married couples who make more than $1 million and individuals making more than $500,000, city officials said. It would affect about 32,000 of New Yorkers filing taxes in the city, or just less than 1 percent, officials said.

“Rather than sending the bill to working families and subway and bus riders already feeling the pressure of rising fares and bad service, we are asking the wealthiest in our city to chip in a little extra,” de Blasio said.

New Yorkers already contribute to the agency through other taxes and fees. De Blasio’s plan also includes funding to offer half-price fare cards for low-income riders.

The Rider’s Alliance said the push to help low-income riders “has never been so urgent.”

“It’s time to end a system where low-income New Yorkers have to skip meals, beg for swipes or even jump turnstiles in order to get to work or school,” executive director John Raskin said in a statement.

From the Utica OD