Category Archives: Politics

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 We have a great historical document: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.

Advertisements

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

Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Is Doomed for the Worst Reason

Regulations are killing America’s boldest dreams.

When Elon Musk tweeted that he had “verbal govt approval” to build a Hyperloop to carry passengers from New York to Washington in half an hour, everyone with a lick of sense about transportation rolled their eyes. It was obviously delusion, fantasy, and hype — science-fiction nonsense.

In a different era, skeptics would have focused on the technology: a magnetic levitation system shooting passenger pods along through a tunnel that maintains a near-vacuum for hundreds of miles. Gee whiz! That’s impossible!

But nowadays we’re blasé about technological challenges. If geeks can put a supercomputer in everyone’s pocket, we imagine they can build a mag-lev pod transit system. Musk does, after all, have his own space program.

No, what makes Musk’s Hyperloop plan seem like fantasy isn’t the high-tech part. Shooting passengers along at more than 700 miles per hour seems simple — engineers pushed 200 miles-per-hour in a test this week — compared to building a tunnel from New York to Washington. And even digging that enormously long tunnel — twice as long as the longest currently in existence — seems straightforward compared to navigating the necessary regulatory approvals.

We live in a world where atoms are much harder to do anything with than bits — and where atoms that require regulatory permission are the hardest of all. The eye-rolling comes less from the technical challenges than from the bureaucratic ones.

With his premature declaration, Musk is doing public debate a favor. He’s reminding us of what the barriers to ambitious projects really are: not technology, not even money, but getting permission to try. “Permits harder than technology,” Musk tweeted after talking with Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti about building a tunnel network. That’s true for the public sector as well as the private.

“For some urban context: a recently opened stretch of subway in New York cost $4.5 billion for less than 2 miles of rails. It was first proposed in 1919 and opened to the public in January 2017,” wrote Bloomberg’s Tom Randall, concluding drily. “These things take time.”

The Second Avenue subway is an extreme example of a general phenomenon. As I’ve previously written, a large infrastructure project may take three or four years of actual construction. But the work can’t even get started until there’s been a decade or more of planning and design. The bottleneck isn’t the actual construction, in other words. It’s the ever-more-detailed analyses, reviews and redesigns required — and often litigated — beforehand. (For New Deal nostalgics, this also explains why the stimulus bill passed in 2009 couldn’t easily include a full-blown Work Progress Administration-style jobs plan.)

“It took two years just to complete the geotechnical and environmental studies for the Chesapeake Bay tunnel project that’s about to begin” in Virginia, wrote Randall. And that’s just one of the states Musk’s Hyperloop tunnel would have to pass through.

The obstacles facing a run-of-the-mill highway, tunnel, or bridge are great enough. Throw in untried and unfamiliar technology and you’re asking for endless delays. Those delays aren’t, however, facts of the natural world. They’re human artifacts. They don’t have to be there. SpaceX and its commercial-spaceflight competitors can experiment because Congress and President Barack Obama agreed to protect them from Federal Aviation Administration standards.

Musk is betting that his salesmanship will have a similar effect on the ground. He’s trying to get the public so excited that the political pressures to allow the Hyperloop to go forward become irresistible. He seems to believe that he can will the permission into being.

If he succeeds, he’ll upend not merely intercity transit but the bureaucratic process by which things get built. That would be a true science-fiction scenario.

From Bloomberg View

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!

Even If It Gets The Subway Fixed, The MTA Is Still Broken

The state-run MTA has four new people in charge: one for “innovation and modernization,” one for day-to-day operations, one for big projects like the Second Avenue Subway and one — Chairman Joe Lhota — to keep an eye on the other three.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn’t charged any of them with fixing the authority’s deteriorating $15.7 billion annual budget. Instead, he simply wants the city to pay more.​ The mayor is taking the bait now, reportedly proposing a new income tax hike on the rich — a terrible idea.

Last week, the MTA tasked Pat Foye, the former Port Authority executive director, with figuring out how to upgrade signals and the like. The MTA has also put two other people — Ronnie Hakim, a longtime transit vet, and Janno Lieber, who rebuilt the World Trade Center towers under developer Larry Silverstein — into a new “Office of the Chairman.”

All seem competent — though two of them, Foye and Lieber, are better at reducing the harm done by political malfeasance rather than reducing the political malfeasance itself. Which appears to be the governor’s preferred strategy.

Foye and Lieber managed to do good things at the Port Authority and for Silverstein, respectively. Yet the PA is still a mess, trying to build way too many things at once.

Lieber, too, did a good job of managing the private-sector construction at Ground Zero. But higher-level decisions about what to build saddled New Yorkers with billions of dollars in debt, plus the $4 billion Oculus train station.

Managing the effects of bad political behavior is no substitute for fixing the behavior. Evidence of that is in the MTA’s latest budget, released just as Cuomo was making changes at the top.

The good news: The MTA has precariously balanced its budget for the next two years, plus the rest of this year. The bad news: After that, things get worse. In February, the MTA projected a $372 million annual budget gap for 2020. Now, the gap is double that.

The biggest problem is the slowing commercial property market. The MTA expects to take in nearly $800 million less in its property-related taxes. That’s not because we’re having a recession; it’s because this market was overheated.

Meanwhile, the MTA’s attempts to turn itself around are costly. It will spend $484 million in extra money over four years to increase inspections and maintenance, including $281 million at the subways and bus division.

The MTA benefits from ever-lower interest rates, which make debt cost less. But it’s not enough.

The agency will take some steps to address the deficit — but many are unwise. For example, it won’t make $59 million in contributions to its retiree health care fund, even though it already owes $18.5 billion there. And it will divert $158 million from a construction account.

One of the MTA’s assumptions demands something of the governor: $260 million in extra state money by 2020, to make up for the governor’s decision, in his first term, to reduce the MTA’s payroll tax on small businesses.

And the request is half-justified, in government world. The MTA’s payroll taxes are coming in $138 million higher than expected. But were it not for the governor’s tax cut, in the MTA’s reasoning, they’d be even higher.

A governor who regularly spends a little something on pet projects all around the state doesn’t want to give up some of those precious dollars to the MTA.

And this extra payment just delays $493 million of the deficit to 2021, when, as the authority’s budget officials mildly note, “it will need to be addressed.”

The governor’s slapdash answer: Make the bigger payment under cover of funding a huge new maintenance push at the MTA, and make the city pay, too.

Just before the bad budget news, Cuomo and the MTA asserted that the city should pay at least $236 million in extra operating costs — almost all of the extra subway and bus spending planned. But this would set a terrible precedent. City taxpayers and riders already provide the most MTA money.

Strip away all the theater, and the MTA’s biggest financial problem doesn’t come from its operational failures. Its announcements to improve service aren’t some radically improved strategy, but what it should have been doing all along. “We need short-term emergency financing now,” Lhota said on Sunday — but the fact is that the MTA’s internal incompetence created this emergency.

The MTA’s financial problem is old and predictable: Volatile tax revenues, like those related to commercial property, are indeed volatile.

If the city gives more, as Mayor Bill de Blasio seems set to propose, it’ll be saying that when the MTA can’t manage its budget in the good times, the city will bail it out.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. NY Post

Musical Chairs at NY City Transit Authority and Port Authority

NY Post

A shakeup in the highest echelons of the Port Authority reached all the way to the MTA on Tuesday — with the PA’s chief switching over to the transit agency.

Port Authority Executive Director and Bridgegate figure Pat Foye stepped down from his post at the PA in the morning to assume his new role as MTA president, sources said.

Foye — who famously ordered the lanes at the George Washington Bridge to be reopened after they were closed for political reasons in the Bridgegate scandal — will report to MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, sources said.

Rider advocates said they believe Foye is a good pick for the job at the agency, which has spiraled into chaos because of increasing derailments and delays caused by aging infrastructure.

“Gov. Cuomo has put in place an experienced team,” said Nick Sifuentes, deputy director of the Riders Alliance. “Now they need him to guarantee the sustainable funding source they need to make good on their promise to fix our subways.”

Following Foye out the door at the PA on Tuesday was the agency’s chairman, John Degnan, who had been clashing with Cuomo recently, sources said. Degnan was not given a new position anywhere, at least not yet.

Degnan was a Gov. Christie appointee to the bi-state agency. Foye was a Cuomo guy, as is Lhota.

The departure of both Degnan and Foye from the PA provides a new slate at the agency that both governors can live with, according to sources.

Gov. Cuomo’s trusted special counsel, Rick Cotton, will replace Foye, while former New Jersey legislator Kevin O’Toole is replacing Degnan, officials said.

Cotton and O’Toole will resume the search for a Port Authority CEO and will oversee major projects, including the new La Guardia Airport, renovations at JFK and plans for a new bus terminal, officials said.The departure of both Degnan and Foye from the PA provides a new slate at the agency that both governors can live with, according to sources.

Gov. Cuomo’s trusted special counsel, Rick Cotton, will replace Foye, while former New Jersey legislator Kevin O’Toole is replacing Degnan, officials said.

Cotton and O’Toole will resume the search for a Port Authority CEO and will oversee major projects, including the new La Guardia Airport, renovations at JFK and plans for a new bus terminal, officials said.

Sources said Degnan was pushed out for criticizing the mayor over the search for a new CEO. Last month, Degnan told a media outlet that the governor wouldn’t approve anyone he found for a new CEO position. He had also called the CEO search a failure, while Cuomo prides himself on getting the job done, no matter how difficult a task, sources said.

Meanwhile, the Cuomo administration has repeatedly blasted Degnan for failing to institute oversight at the beleaguered agency.

Foye had expressed a desire to leave the Port Authority for more than a year but stayed on to see Degnan out, sources said.

“Foye wasn’t going to leave until Degnan did,” a source noted.

In addition to Foye’s new post at the MTA, longtime transit-agency honcho Ronnie Hakim will be named managing director of operations, sources said. She will report to Lhota, who in June reclaimed the role he left in 2013

Going to be a HOT Summer with Signal Problems

400,000 angry people getting off the trains each day.” Referring to the commuters from New Jersey and Long Island derailed by track problems at Penn Station and the 100,000 or more subway riders who see their commute disrupted every day by the antiquated signal system.

CHART ABOVE
Citizens Budget Commission report revealed that the three components essential to a reliable subway system—cars, power systems and signals—are all receiving far less than they need to bring the system into a state of good repair.

politicians always prefer new projects. Remember the spotlight the governor hogged at the beginning of the year, when the Second Avenue subway opened? Just wait for the fanfare when the new Tappan Zee Bridge he commissioned is completed later this year. The problems the transit system is encountering are a direct result of that attitude. Any Trump administration infrastructure plan is likely to suffer from the same flaw.

The villains (and heroes) behind the subway mess

NY Post

You’re likely aware subway trains are breaking down partly because parts of the signal system date back to the 1930s. The succession of bad decisions that got you stuck in that tunnel goes back nearly as long — to the 1950s, at least. The list includes politicians and other leaders long dead or, at least, long off the public stage.

In 1952, Robert Wagner Jr., then borough president, protested any attempt to raise the transit fare from 10 cents, despite acknowledging that “the transit operating deficit” — about $500 million in today’s dollars — “is just about as large as the additional money we need this year for pensions for [city] employees.”

Wagner became mayor in 1954. Even as budget gaps grew, Wagner gave most city employees the right to collectively bargain (transit workers were already unionized, as the subways had started out in the private sector). He also massively increased social spending.

Mayor John Lindsay, Wagner’s successor, continued this strategy. That left less money for subways, which the state gradually took over from the city. The MTA spent much of the 1980s and 1990s making repairs and replacements that should’ve been done two decades previously.

In the early 2000s, Gov. George Pataki started piling on debt. He wanted projects like the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access. The MTA also had to keep repairing and replacing tracks, train cars and the like. Pataki didn’t want to pay for it. In 1999, the MTA owed $12 billion. By 2006, it owed $23.9 billion. Pataki also restructured the MTA’s debt so that the bills would come due later — today.

The MTA’s biggest problem isn’t money. It’s that it can’t do construction fast enough. But debt costs now suck up $2.6 billion in annual spending. At some point soon, the crisis won’t just be on the tracks, but in the CFO’s office.

During the 2008 financial crisis, the MTA said the same thing about its workers as Mayor Michael Bloomberg said about city workers: They couldn’t get raises unless they paid for them through productivity increases or benefits givebacks.

A year later, under Gov. David Paterson’s tenure, a supposedly neutral team of arbitrators gave the workers two years’ worth of 4 percent annual raises and health care goodies, costing the MTA $300 million a year. (The MTA now has $3.2 billion in annual benefits costs.)

In spring 2009, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith cobbled together a middle-of-the-night bailout package that awarded the MTA what today amounts to $2 billion in additional annual revenue. Again, lawmakers missed an opportunity to reform labor and construction costs.

Contrary to popular belief, Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t run the MTA. An independent board does. Yes, Cuomo names six of those board members, more than any other politician. Yet they have a legal duty to act independently. Truly independent directors would’ve questioned MTA managers’ labor-cost strategy and operational failures long ago.

They also wouldn’t sign off on major projects such as East Side Access, which will bring Long Island Rail Road trains to a station underneath Grand Central, without questioning whether it’s better to focus on something else first, like subway signals.

The board at least should’ve held off on approving East Side Access until Long Island agreed to pay a greater share, perhaps through higher property tax revenues that’ll come from better transit.

New chairman Joe Lhota, who ran the MTA five years ago, can fix this by encouraging board members to collectively assert a real strategy, rather just signing off on whatever project Cuomo feels like adding, like a $2 billion third track on the LIRR — a fine idea, but one that should wait until New York has made more progress on its aged signal system. Lhota doesn’t need this job; he has a job running a hospital. He should use that independence to push back against the governor when necessary.

MTA chairpeople are supposed to serve six years, to insulate them from day-to-day politics. But Tom Prendergast, who left early this year, was the longest recent-serving chairman and executive director — and he only served four years. Now the MTA only has an interim executive director, Ronnie Hakim, and may soon see another newcomer. (Lhota isn’t taking the day-to-day reins, only chairing the board.)

Hakim and her team should’ve considered long ago what the MTA is now thinking about: closing entire subway lines to speed up signal work. To be fair, the MTA is already planning to close the L train in two years, and the hardest work involves interlockings that control several subway lines; we can’t shut them all down.

Still, whatever the MTA is doing isn’t working. The authority has been reactive, not proactive, in experimenting with new ways to deal with sick passengers and frozen signals and record crowds.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, as he likes to remind us, isn’t in charge of the subways. Still, he hasn’t taken advantage of New York’s record revenue boom — the city will take in $6.6 billion more in local taxes than it did when the mayor took office — to benefit transit.

The state plans to invest nearly $3 billion in signals over the next five years. Why not work with the MTA to see if it can get this work done more quickly? The city could do its part by better managing the streets: carving out more space for bus lanes, bike lanes, real rideshare (with four or more people in a car) and other ways for New Yorkers to get around during shutdowns.

If the MTA can do signal work more efficiently, the mayor could offer some of these record revenues to do more. The city is putting up less than 10 percent of the MTA’s capital budget over five years; it can do more if Cuomo does more. Bloomberg is guilty of the same sin; while he pushed congestion pricing, he never thought strategically about the MTA and how the city could use money as leverage to fix it.

The subway has its heroes, too. Richard Ravitch, who chaired the MTA in the early ’80s, convinced the business community to support the taxes it would need to make up for the neglect of the previous two decades.

Sam Schwartz, the city’s former transportation commissioner, has warned about maintenance cutbacks for years — and has proposed a congestion-pricing plan to fund at least some of this work.

Long before Twitter complaints from stuck passengers, Gene Russianoff, who founded the Straphangers Campaign in 1979, made sure newspapers were armed with data on whether the trains were working well.

And finally, there’s today’s generation of transit reporters and bloggers. Nearly all of them are too young to remember the last transit crisis. Their interest in the trains, and their willingness to think about everything from pension costs to fare structures, can help ensure that this crisis never gets as bad as that one.

Where does that leave Cuomo? It’s too early to tell if he’ll be known as a hero or a villain. He’s increased the MTA’s debt to more than $37 billion, without saying how he’ll pay for it. But his excitement over projects like the Second Avenue Subway isn’t silly. We do need more subway stations.

How he handles the current crisis of delays and crowding without forcing a future generation to pick up the bill will help determine his legacy.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.

New York’s subway has always been a chamber of horrors. But when did it get this bad?

From Los Angeles times via California rail news via Nice, France

Featured image:John Raskin, center, executive director of Riders Alliance, leads a rally demanding improvements in New York public transportation.

“Die Kitties Die!” screamed the headline in the New York Daily News when, in 2013, former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Joe Lhota criticized a decision to pause trains in a Brooklyn subway station to rescue a pair of kittens lost on the tracks.

These days, New York so badly needs to get the trains to run on time that Lhota, whose unfortunate anti-cat comments caused a minor scandal, has been brought back as chairman of the transit agency.

Extreme measures are in order to fix the 112-year-old subway system, and nothing — not budget cuts, political infighting, or cats — can stand in the way.

Delays have doubled over the last five years, and accidents are on the rise. A subway derailed last week, crashing into a wall and igniting a trash fire after hitting equipment left on a track near 125th Street in Harlem. Nobody was seriously injured, but hundreds of terrified passengers had to evacuate through a smoky underground passage lighted only by their cellphones.

On the heels of the derailment, Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week signed an executive order declaring a “state of emergency” on the subways, making official what many New Yorkers in their gut already know. The governor also allocated an additional $1 billion for improvements.

Few think it will make much impact for the largest subway system in the United States, with 665 miles of track and 472 stations.


A woman with a baby stroller fails to get on a train at Grand Central Terminal. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times).

“It’s a good start, but where will the other billions come from?” asked John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance, a grass-roots passenger advocacy group.

The alliance has been holding impromptu protests demanding improvements in service and has even published a book, “Subway Horror Stories,’’ with first-person accounts of mishaps on the subway.

Recent months have brought plenty of fresh anecdotes. Passengers improvised a graduation ceremony May 31 on a stalled E train from Queens to Manhattan for Jericho Marco Alcantara, who missed the real thing at Hunter College because of the delays.

When a rush-hour train stalled for 45 minutes last month without power or air conditioning, doors and windows locked, turning the cars into a virtual steam bath. Passengers stripped nearly naked and someone scrawled on the steamy window, “I will survive.” Two weeks ago, passengers escaped from a similarly stalled train by walking along the subway tracks, in peril of electrocution.

“Subway riders are tired of risking their lives, their jobs, their sanity,’’ yelled one of the protesters, Jackie Cohen.

To be sure, the system isn’t as bad as it was in the 1980s, when cars were covered with graffiti and riders had to look over their shoulders for fear of being mugged.

Today the subways are in some ways victims of their own success. The city’s economy is booming and so is public transit ridership. Nearly 6 million people a day use the subway, up from 4 million in the 1990s, and they are packed into a system that has barely grown at all.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s own data show that about one-third of the 58,651 delays reported in April, the most recent month available, were caused by overcrowding.

Many of the subway system’s cars date back to the time of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. And the system cannot ease overcrowding by simply ordering new cars because the 70-year-old switching system is too antiquated to manage more cars on the same tracks without a risk of collisions.

There have been no upgrades over the years. With champagne toasts and a live jazz band, a black-tie crowd of dignitaries hosted by the governor attended the New Year’s Eve opening of the long-delayed Second Avenue subway, built at a cost of $4.5 billion. Many subways now have WiFi and a link to free downloads from the New York Public Library. Buses are adding USB charging stations.

But upgrades that don’t lend themselves to photo opportunities have gone neglected.

“What we need is the unsexy, behind-the-scenes maintenance and equipment that actually keeps the subway running,’’ said Raskin.

“The tracks are not well-maintained. When something goes wrong, they do a quick fix on them,’’ said John Ferretti, a subway conductor and shop steward for the Transport Workers Union. “We work on cars that are almost 60 years old where the power and the air conditioning is not working. People yell at us because we are wearing an MTA uniform. When that train is stuck, it’s up to us to keep 2,000 customers from freaking out.’’

Politically speaking, the New York City subway system is something of an orphan. Contrary to expectations, it falls under the jurisdiction of the state, not the city, a situation that has allowed the mayor and the governor — in this case Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo, Democrats who don’t particularly get along — to blame each other when something goes wrong.

“The governor has been indifferent to issues surrounding the subways. He feels he can take the votes of urban Democrats for granted and that he has to spend his time wooing swing voters in the suburbs,’’ said David Bragdon, executive director of TransitCenter, a foundation dedicated to public transportation.

New York City also gets the short shrift because, unlike Paris, London, Beijing, Tokyo and Moscow, which also have large subway systems, it is not a national capital.

“The London subway system is older. So is the Paris subway system. But they are national capitals. New York is not, and we have a federal government that is hostile to urban areas,’’ said Bragdon.

The rising chorus of complaints about the subways prompted Cuomo last month to bring Lhota back. A respected administrator, Lhota is credited with getting the transit system up and running quickly after the devastating flooding in 2012 from Superstorm Sandy — after which he resigned to make an unsuccessful bid for the Republican mayoral nomination. (It was during that mayoral campaign that he became famous for his comments about the kittens.)

His reappointment has raised expectations.

Lhota has been given 30 days to conduct an audit that he calls the subway recovery and transformation plan. At a conference of transportation experts this week, he said his priority is to upgrade the technology to current standards.

“The system opened in 1904. It was designed in the 19th century. For the most part, it is still running on concepts that were developed by folks in the late 1800s, and that’s problematic in this, the 21st century,’’ Lhota said at the conference.

The promised improvements may come just in time for subway riders who say they are losing patience. This year for the first time in decades, subway use dipped slightly — a phenomenon attributed to commuters switching to ride-sharing apps and bicycles.

“I haven’t had anything terrible happen to me, but honestly I’m worried. I’m old now. What if I have to climb out of a train?’’ said 82-year-old Marilyn Savetsky, a retiree clutching her Chihuahua who attended a protest last week. She has now switched to the bus.

Pictured above is the NY Subway “Control Room” way, way underneath W 4th Street. Equipment, except for PC and a FAX is from the 1920’s. Picture by Penney Vanderbilt.

Andrew Cuomo Is Hiding from NYC’s Subway Nightmare

From Vice.com

The real reason the country’s largest subway became such a total disaster.

What do you do when your political brand is based on old-school competence, but you literally can’t keep the trains running on time? For New York governor Andrew Cuomo, presiding over a subway system that’s become a total nightmare, the answer seems to be: Hope your constituents think it’s someone else’s fault.

Cuomo’s public image has never been about an inspiring message or firing up a passionate base. He lost more than a third of the vote as an incumbent in a Democratic primary in 2014 after pushing deep cuts to school aid, declaring war on unions, and tacitly supporting a Republican takeover of his state senate. Nor is he one of those happy retail politicians who derives popularity from attending local events, shaking hands, and flashing a friendly smile.

Instead, a key selling point for Cuomo has been a promise of barebones effectiveness. Or, as the man himself explained in a 2015 New Yorker profile: “Show me, it’s show-me time. Show me results. Build a bridge, build a train to LaGuardia, clear the snow, save lives. Huh? A little competence.”

It’s precisely this “a little competence, huh?” shtick that makes the disastrous state of New York City’s subways so dangerous to Cuomo—and why it’s vital for him that city residents continue to not realize that it is he, Cuomo (and not his nemesis, Mayor Bill de Blasio), who controls this mess.

How bad is the subway situation, exactly? A woman recently got her head stuck in a train, and people just kept walking past her. These people resorted to taking their shirts and pants off after being stuck in an underground tunnel for 45 minutes. This guy missed his graduation and had to settle for some passengers giving him a makeshift subterranean ceremony because his train was delayed for almost three hours. Signal malfunctions, crowding, and track repair delays have become commonplace, and there are now 70,000 delays a month—nearly triple the number five years ago. The results, beyond people losing their minds, include lost wages from tardiness and missed medical appointments.

And all of that’s before the pending shutdown of the L train upends thousands of people’s lives.

Seizing on those who understandably assume this stuff is the province of the local mayor, Cuomo recently proposed an adorable bill giving himself control of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) that he already oversees. “Who’s in charge [of the trains]?” he asked last week. “Who knows! Maybe the county executive, maybe the president, maybe the governor, maybe the mayor.”

It’s super weird that Cuomo isn’t sure who controls the transit system, since this winter he orchestrated a multimedia self-promotional tour to take credit for opening the “Second Avenue subway.” This included a fawning profile in the Times in which he invoked Robert Moses, and a celebration in which the MTA’s Tom Prendergast gushed about how proud he was to serve the governor. Never mind that the project was over budget, overdue, and basically amounted to the addition of three subway stops. For this particular development, Cuomo was not confused as to who controlled the subways. (He was right then: The governor not only appoints the head of the MTA, but also a plurality of its board. The MTA is chartered by the state, and even the agency’s own website says the governor appoints the members.)

Cuomo’s real coup has been dodging a full-fledged media scandal over this stuff, due partially to a quirk of geography.

Some excellent journalists are out there covering Cuomo’s administration, holding his feet to the fire on everything from his double talk on political corruption to a water poisoning crisis in upstate Hoosick Falls. The vast majority reside and work in Albany—which is great when a major event or story occurs in the State Capitol or nearby. In those cases, reporters are able to experience it directly and viscerally (and then go a short distance and report on it). Many times, the big stories requiring context and reporting involve the legislative process, and the Albany press corps are experts at condensing this super boring but important minutia.

The problem is when a Cuomo story happens hours away from the people keeping tabs on him. In the case of the ongoing subway nightmare, the reporters experiencing (and covering) these hellish commutes, the ones who know precisely how the MTA works on a day-to-day basis, are not necessarily in position to put pressure on Cuomo in Albany.

While the governor has received his share of unpleasant criticism over this fiasco, he still seems to be evading a total bulldozing in the press. Which means many people still don’t know where to point their fingers.

Speaking of Albany reporters covering the legislative process, some dogged ones noticed earlier this month that Cuomo tried to slip in a provision in the dark of night that would replace the honorary name of the Tappan Zee bridge from that of one former governor, Malcolm Wilson, to that of another: Cuomo’s father, Mario.

Ultimately the provision was stalled (though perhaps just temporarily), when members of the state assembly declined to vote on it.

While the effort by Cuomo was roundly criticized, with one sharp observer calling it an “incredibly classic Cuomo/Albany story” and a “ridiculous farce,” perhaps it could still spawn an idea that actually serves the public. If the governor is so keen on blessing major infrastructure with his family name, Albany leaders might just oblige—by naming the current transportation mess after its rightful owner.

The Andrew Cuomo Subway System has a nice ring to it.