Tag Archives: Governor Andrew Cuomo

Deal approved to turn JFK’s historic TWA Flight Center into hotel complex

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Rendering courtesy BerlinRosen

The long-range lease deal to turn the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) into a hotel complex has been approved by the Port Authority’s Board of Commissioners, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Thursday afternoon.

The project calls for a 75-year lease agreement with Flight Center Hotel LLC, a partnership of MCR Development and JetBlue Airways Corporation, to remake the TWA Flight Center and its nearly 6-acre site into JFK’s only on-airport hotel.

“This administration has committed to modernizing New York’s airports for the 21st century by creating gateways worthy of New York City and ensuring travelers have the services they need,’’ Cuomo said. “At the TWA Flight Center, we are able to meet those goals while also preserving its iconic design for passengers to enjoy for decades to come.”

Astonishingly, JFK is one of the few U.S. airports that does not have an on-airport hotel. This $265 million project, which is expected to break ground in 2016, will create 3,700 jobs — including approximately 2,500 union construction and restoration jobs — and is expected to open for use in 2018.

This new hotel will include 505 hotel rooms, 40,000 square feet of meeting space, restaurants, a spa and a 10,000-square-foot observation deck. The complex will also feature two six-story hotel towers and a micro-grid energy management system, allowing the building to generate its own power.

The hotel complex will pay homage to the airport’s golden jet age era by preserving the curving 1960s-era stark white concourse with plush-red lounge area, designed by legendary architect Eero Saarinen.

“We are proud to help advance Governor Cuomo’s plan to modernize our region’s aviation infrastructure by bringing the TWA Flight Center, the most storied symbol of the Jet Age, back to life,” said Tyler Morse, MCR Development CEO. “Accessible to the general public as well as all airlines from all terminals, the 505-room hotel at the rehabilitated TWA Flight Center will be a tremendous amenity for the entire JFK International Airport. Thank you to Governor Cuomo and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for this incredible opportunity to celebrate and preserve Eero Saarinen’s historic masterpiece while also creating 3,700 construction and permanent jobs and 40,000 square feet of desperately needed onsite meeting space.”

For more information about the project, visit the developer’s website.


New program to restore rent-regulated apartments to buildings in western Queens

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Images courtesy of state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office

A group of state and city officials are getting together to crack down on landlords throughout the five boroughs — including a handful in western Queens — who they say could be breaking the law.

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the city’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development Commissioner Vicki Been announced Wednesday that notices were sent out to 194 building owners throughout the city who accepted “lucrative” tax breaks under the state’s 421-a program without complying with the law’s rent regulation requirements by registering their apartments as rent-regulated.

The state passed Section 421-a of the Real Property Tax Law in 1971 as a way to motivate the construction of rent-regulated housing and condominiums in New York City. The law gives a partial exemption from city property taxes for the owners of these newly constructed residential multi-family buildings for at least 10 years.

The owners of these buildings, found throughout the five boroughs and most of whom own one building of less than 50 units, provide housing to more than 2,400 families and individuals who are entitled to rent-regulated leases under the law.

A high concentration of these buildings are found in Brooklyn and Queens, with neighborhoods that include Astoria, Long Island City, Corona and Elmhurst.

“Landlords of rental buildings who accept these tax incentives must follow through on their end of the bargain and offer rent-regulated leases to their tenants,” Schneiderman said. “The Real Estate Tax Compliance Program we are announcing today will safeguard tenants’ rights, protect more than 2,000 units of New York City’s rent-regulated housing stock, and ensure that our important and limited tax dollars are properly spent.”

The notices, which were sent out Tuesday, alert building owners to the possible legal consequences they face, including revocation of the tax breaks, if they do not register the apartments as rent-regulated and give tenants rent-regulated leases.

In the letter, the owners are also given details on the one-time, non-negotiable chance they have to “cure the violations” and “avoid further enforcement action.”

The governor’s Tenant Protection Unit (TPU) will monitor the registrations filed by the owners. If the owner fails to register properly, TPU could then look into putting an administrative order freezing current rents, along with pursuing overcharge actions against the owners for collecting improper rents. TPU will also seek damages on behalf of tenants.

“We will not tolerate landlords who break the law and deny their tenants rent-regulated leases, plain and simple,” Cuomo said. “This partnership will help ensure that building owners who benefit from the 421-a program are living up to their responsibilities. Owners who are not currently in compliance should get their act together immediately or face the real possibility of having the TPU freeze rents, pursue overcharges and seek damages.”


Cemetery of the Evergreens to get $1.3M grant for storm recovery

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

THE RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

Although Hurricane Sandy happened almost nearly three years ago, a local cemetery is now getting financial assistance to clean up from damages incurred during the October 2012 superstorm.

The Cemetery of the Evergreens, which sits on the Glendale/Bushwick border, will receive two grants totaling $1.3 million as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s effort to restore 16 historically significant properties across New York State that sustained damaged during Sandy.

“Many of New York’s historic properties endured the devastating effects of Superstorm Sandy and as a result, have fallen into a state of disrepair,” Cuomo said in a statement. “With this funding, we are helping our communities rebuild these New York State treasures back stronger and more resilient than before. In the end, they will better withstand the threat of future storms and continue to serve as economic and educational assets in their communities.”

During Sandy, the 166-year-old Cemetery of the Evergreens, also known as the Evergreens Cemetery, experienced extreme winds that caused trees to topple and destroy several monuments and gravestones. A $1 million grant will aid the cemetery in removing debris from fallen trees, finish landscape restorations and repair the damaged gravestones and monuments.

“The money from the grants will go to pay for new trees that we have to replace. We had a lot of damage done from existing trees,” said Julie Bose, president of the Cemetery of the Evergreens. “Some of it was not immediate damage. We are just delighted and grateful for this grant. I think some people don’t realize that the effects of Hurricane Sandy are still being felt.”

Photo courtesy Cemetery of the Evergreens

Photo courtesy of Cemetery of the Evergreens

The Evergreens Cemetery Preservation Foundation will also receive an additional $320,000 grant to fund an extensive cultural landscape report to assess the damage to the landscape caused by Sandy and provide both short- and long-term treatment plans.

“We are very welcoming to the neighborhood and we want people to come and explore the beauty of this space, not only those that have loved ones buried here, but the community as a whole,” Bose said. “We want this to be a welcoming place.”

The funds for the grants are provided by the National Park Service and administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

In total, Cuomo issued $6.2 million in grants for the restoration of historic properties around the state that were damaged in the superstorm, including Lookout Hill, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and Jones Beach State Park, among others.

Last year, Cuomo awarded more than $5 million in grants to restore 14 historic properties that incurred severe damage from Sandy.


LaGuardia Airport to get $4 billion, ’21st-century’ overhaul

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

After Vice President Joe Biden compared it to a “third-world country,” LaGuardia Airport is getting a much-needed makeover bringing it to the 21st century and allowing New York City to start to once again lead in infrastructure.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was joined by Biden on Monday afternoon to announce that the Queens airport would be receiving a complete redesign taking it from a 1939 airport to a globally renowned, state-of-the-art facility.

“LaGuardia is slow. It’s dated. It’s a terrible front door entranceway to New York. It is a lost opportunity. It’s almost universally decried as a poor representation of an airport let alone a New York airport,” Cuomo said.

Bringing up the vice president’s comments last year that referred to LaGuardia Airport as a “third-world country,” Cuomo said that it served as a wake-up call to a city that at one point in history was leading the way in infrastructure.

“It was a strong, some would say prophetic vision, which I believe in many ways is an impetus to say to New York, ‘Get up, move.’ This is not acceptable and it’s not acceptable for New York,” Cuomo said about Biden’s comment.


An image of the current LaGuardia Airport.

In order to tackle the issue of the airport — which passengers have called dirty, cramped, hot and delayed — the governor appointed an advisory panel, led by Dan Tishman, to work with the Port Authority and come up with a new plan for LaGuardia.

After getting together and going over goals and obstacles, the group came up with the plan that would create an entirely new facility, replacing the current airport in its entirety. It would run adjacent to the Grand Central Parkway, 600 feet closer to the parkway than it is now. There would be more flight operating space, a world-class retail and hotel complex, and a unified terminal instead of the current isolated terminals. Later, there will be AirTrain and ferry access.

“The goal is not really to repair and rebuild a 1939 airport. We want an airport that is a state-of-the-art facility. We want a globally renowned airport for the next century that is worthy of the name New York and what we’re doing,” Cuomo said.

 Photo courtesy of Office of Gov. Cuomo - Kevin P. Coughlin

Photo courtesy of Gov. Cuomo’s office – Kevin P. Coughlin

The project is a $4 billion public-private sector partnership with more than 50 percent of the money being privately funded. The first half of the project is expected to break ground next year with new facilities approximately in 39 months, with all construction complete within 18 months thereafter. Delta has also agreed to be a partner in the new airport and will work to redevelop their two terminals — C and D — to work together with the unified terminal.

The airport will remain open and functional during the construction phase.

“This is the greatest city in the world. It’s not a hyperbole. It’s the greatest city in the world and it requires a 21st-century infrastructure,” Biden said. “The airport has a first-class workforce, and they deserve a first-class facility to serve customers who count on them.”

In response to the project plan, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said she recommends the Port Authority expands its Aircraft Noise program throughout construction phases of LaGuardia; creates a cellphone lot; and creates more short- and long-term airport parking.

“As much as LaGuardia and JFK International are tremendous economic assets to Queens and to the region, with them has come the need to mitigate the direct, daily impacts of growth upon the thousands of families immediately surrounding them,” Katz said. “When convening this blue-ribbon panel on which I have had the pleasure to serve, the governor charged us with ensuring that community needs are addressed, especially with regard to noise and alleviating traffic congestion.”

Along with LaGuardia, Cuomo also mentioned improvements that will take place at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York, to accommodate more commercial flights to reduce traffic at LaGuardia and JFK airports and make the airport a “New York Free Trade Zone”; renovations at JFk airport such as a historic renovation of the Saarinen building being constructed to a state-of-the-art hotel; and putting to use the Republic Airport also as a “New York Free Trade Zone.”


Crucial housing laws to expire as state legislature negotiations continue

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Laws that keep rents regulated for millions of residents in the city and help build more affordable housing will expire at midnight Monday unless state legislators reach an agreement to extend or reform them.

State politicians could extend the deadline to Wednesday — when this year’s legislative session comes to an end — giving them time to work on more comprehensive reforms.

One of the laws provide guidelines in rent control and stabilized apartments throughout the city, and many fear without them hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units around in the city will be lost.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who sent a proposal to the state legislature last month, has urged members of the Assembly and Senate to come to an agreement to protect renters in the city.

“This is just unacceptable,” he said, according to The New York Times. “There are over two million New Yorkers right now who woke up this morning not knowing what was going to happen to their future because Albany is not acting.”

De Blasio’s proposal would stop landlords from deregulating vacant apartments when rents go above $2,500. The proposal also seeks to remove the allowance that landlords can raise rents on vacant apartments by 20 percent and end permanent rent hikes when landlords maintain or improve apartments.

Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged that they should avoid “mayhem” and not let the law expire. There is a belief that landlords could threaten rent hikes or evictions while the state works on reforming the law, but Cuomo and de Blasio has warned property owners against this.

Public Advocate Letitia James has set up a hotline at 212-669-7250 to field questions to assist rent regulated tenants who have questions or need legal help in the event that the rent laws temporarily expire.

Last week, Cuomo promised to call state legislatures beyond the end of their session until they worked out a deal, according to published reports.

The state Assembly has introduced a bill that will extend current protections until Wednesday, while they look for a more permanent solution.

Also on the table for Monday is the 421-a tax abatement, which grants developers tax breaks in exchange more affordable housing. Critics have called for reforms to this law because many critics of the program say it current allows developers to build more market-rate housing.

De Blasio revealed a proposal that will revitalize the program to and give developers 35 years of tax breaks instead of 25, but with the trade-off that projects must include 25 to 30 percent affordable housing. It also suggests a mansion tax for condos or co-ops valued at more than $1.75 million.

Reportedly, Cuomo supports a short-term extension and a revamp of the program over a straight extension of the current plan.

“I would not want to see the program expire, because then you have no construction, so, depending,” Cuomo told the New York Observer. “But on these facts, I would favor a short-term extension, so you still have the pressure on people to get a new agreement done, but you don’t actually stop producing affordable housing.”


Kim helps usher in consumer awareness campaign for nail salon industry

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Office of Ron Kim

Updated June 3, 1:38 p.m.


Assemblyman Ron Kim joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo in Manhattan on Friday to launch a consumer awareness campaign to improve conditions in the nail salon industry.

Kim, who represents parts of Flushing, Whitestone and Murray Hill, called for a more educational approach to reforming the industry and proposed a training program to ensure that workers receive minimum wage while learning about their rights.

“I’m proud to join Governor Cuomo in this fight and that’s why I’m sponsoring important legislation to protect New York’s workers,” Kim said. “Together with the governor, the owners and advocates, we can transform the nail salon industry and protect the thousands of workers in our community so they can obtain the proper treatment they rightfully deserve.”

The consumer awareness campaign proposes to teach consumers what to expect when they visit a nail salon. As part of the initiative, pocket cards listing the “Top Five Things to Ask When Entering Nail Salons” are being distributed statewide.

The questions include “Are workers paid at least minimum wage and overtime?”; “Is appropriate protective equipment (respirator, mask, gloves, eye protection) provided to workers and used?”; “Is there adequate ventilation (no strong odors)?”; “Is the salon business license posted in plain view?”; and “Is the Nail Salon Workers’ Bill of Rights posted in plain view?”

Kim joined public officials and owners of local nail salons earlier last month in Flushing to announce the “Healthy Nail Salon Network,” a series of proposals to create a safe working environment for nail salon workers.

Among the proposals that Kim outlined that day, raising prices for manicures and creating a code of conduct for salons were among a few solutions he suggested.

Several politicians including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Public Advocate Letitia James have taken steps to reform the industry on the state and city level. Efforts to reform city nail salons increased after a New York Times article exposed unfair wage and labor practices at many nail salons.

A spokesperson for James’ office noted Wednesday that the public advocate has been working on the issue for more than a year.

“We are calling on New Yorkers to use their power as consumers to patronize nail salons who treat employees fairly, and boycott those unscrupulous businesses who profit by exploiting their workers,” Cuomo said.


Port Authority selects group to build, manage LaGuardia Airport’s Central Terminal Building

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey finally announced Thursday the winning group for a $3.6 billion project to build and manage LaGuardia Airport’s new Central Terminal Building.

The bi-state agency selected LaGuardia Gateway Partners, a team comprised of Swedish construction firm Skanska, Vantage Airport Group and various financial firms. The group was selected over the other project finalist, which includes a team comprised of Tutor Perini Corp., Goldman Sachs Group, TAV Construction and other firms.

The Global Gateway Alliance, which supports improvements to the local airports, applauded the selection of the partnership, and called for the Port Authority to act quickly so the team can start the project to replace the more than five-decade-old building, known as Terminal B.

“A new terminal is the linchpin in finally changing LaGuardia’s reputation from ‘third world’ to world class,” the organization said in a statement. “But the project has already faced delays, so we urge the Port and the winning consortium to finalize the agreement quickly and get redevelopment underway so travelers don’t have to wait one day longer than necessary for a first-class experience at LaGuardia.”

The Port Authority was supposed to pick the group that would build and manage the terminal last year, but that selection was delayed because Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a design contest for the terminal. The Port Authority hasn’t selected a winning design despite having announced the group that will build the terminal.

An advisory panel overseeing the redesign contest recommended that the new terminal include a central “great hall” to serve as the airport’s entry, a 100- to 200-room hotel in the airport, people-movers between terminals, and docking for a future AirTrain, which Cuomo announced earlier this year.


New tax credit bill to widen ‘parental choice in education’

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of Office of the Governor/Kevin P. Coughlin

Looking to give parents greater choice as to where they send their children to school, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday legislation creating tax incentives for private education.

Cuomo was joined by Cardinal Timothy Dolan and elected officials, as well as parents and students, to call on the legislature to pass the Parental Choice in Education Act during this session, which concludes in June.

“Education is the greatest gift that a parent can give to their children—and it is also one of the most personal decisions that a parent can make,” Cuomo said. “That’s why we need to support parental choice in education.”

The Parental Choice in Education Act aims to support and protect alternative schooling options for parents and students across the state. It calls for $150 million in education tax credits annually that would provide tax credits to low-income families who send their children to non-public schools; scholarships to low- and middle-income students to attend either an out-of-district public school or a non-public school; incentives to public schools for enhanced educational programming, such as after-school programs; and tax credits to public school teachers for the purchase of supplies.

“By rewarding donations that support public schools, providing tax credits for teachers when they purchase classroom supplies out of pocket and easing the financial burden on families who send their children to independent, parochial or out-of-district public schools, we can make a fundamental difference in the lives of students, families and educators across the state,” the governor continued. “The legislature must pass this act this year, because families deserve a choice when it comes to their child’s education.”

More than 400,000 children attend non-public schools across New York State. Many parochial schools in New York State, however, are facing financial hardships. More than 75 parochial schools have closed in the last five years statewide, and average tuition costs and reach as high as $8,500 annually per student.

“This is not just a Catholic issue — it is an issue for every parochial, private or non-public school that is devoted to the success of their students,” Dolan said. “Our students are our greatest treasure and the Parental Choice in Education Act is all about supporting them no matter where they go to school.”

The Parental Choice in Education Act’s Family Choice Education Credit will provide $70 million in credits to approximately 82,000 families of non-public school students across the state, benefiting nearly 140,000 children. Families with incomes below $60,000 per year would qualify for up to $500 per student for tuition expenses to non-public and out-of-district public schools.

Additional tax credits in the bill would fund $67 million in scholarships to help low-income families afford private education for their students. Individuals and businesses can receive a tax credit for up to 75 percent of their donations made to non-for-profit organizations that award scholarships to students in grades pre-K through 12.

Educational improvement programs would also receive a $27 million boost. Individuals and businesses will be able to apply for a total of $20 million in tax credits for up to 75 percent of their donations made to public schools and non-for-profits that support public schools’ educational programs.

Finally, instructional materials and supplies credits totaling $10 million would provide $200 per public school teacher to support the purchase of instructional materials and supplies. This credit will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis.


Transit advocates challenge Cuomo to ride the 7 line

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo via Gov.Cuomo's Flickr/File photo

Fed up with rising fares and poor subway service, members of the Riders Alliance and the Straphangers Campaign wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo inviting him to take a ride on the 7 line during the morning rush hour.

The purpose of this ride-along, the transit advocacy groups said, would be to give the governor a firsthand look at the city’s public transit system and get him to agree to fully fund the MTA’s five-year capital program, which currently faces a $15 billion shortfall.

“It defies comprehension that Gov. Cuomo hasn’t taken up the issue of funding for our subways and buses,” said Nick Sifuentes, deputy director of the Riders Alliance. “The only reason we can think of is that he doesn’t have to deal with the dreadful rush hour commutes that average New Yorkers face every day.”

According to a report by City Comptroller Scott Stringer comparing commute times in 29 major American cities, New Yorkers have the worst commute in the country. Additionally, report by the New York Post provides MTA data that shows delays have increased in recent years.

“New Yorkers are paying more for less and they hate that,” said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the Straphangers Campaign.

If the MTA’s five-year capital program, which pays for new subway cars, buses, commuter rail trains, modern signals, track and station upgrades, as well as supporting expansions like the Second Avenue Subway, does not get fully funded, commuters will feel the consequences with more fare hikes.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office has reported that for every $1 billion that the MTA must borrow for its capital plan with no new revenue sources, it could be forced to raise fares an additional 1 percent.

“New Yorkers are fed up with fare hikes, bad service, and overcrowded trains — we’ve been hearing from frustrated riders for months,” Sifuentes said. “It’s about time the governor does too.”

The letter specifically asks Cuomo to join riders “on the 7 train, which is over capacity daily and which was recently stuck in a tunnel after yet another equipment failure during the morning rush.” It also asks him to ride other problem-plagued lines such as the C train in Brooklyn.

Public transit supporters will hold a rally on Tuesday, May 5, at noon on the steps of City Hall to call for greater investment by the city in its subway and bus system.


As Jamaica blooms, so will the School of Business at York College

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of York College 

Now that the city has launched its Jamaica Now Action Plan to revitalize the neighborhood, more and more businesses are expected to migrate to the area.

York College, a City University of New York (CUNY) institution that has a 50-acre campus in downtown Jamaica, is hoping to be an incubator and usher in new companies to the neighborhood, and also partner with them for the benefit of students.

The school has already been negotiating with businesses looking to move to and grow in Jamaica through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s START-UP NY tax-free program.

In addition to York’s business networking, the school plans to add a nine-story, 162,988-square-foot Academic Village and Conference Center (AVCC) in the near future. The center will further promote business as it will be anchored by the School of Business at York, providing the next generation of managers, company owners and entrepreneurs with modern classrooms and more services.

The new building, which was approved by the CUNY board of trustees back in 2011, will replace the aging 4,000-square-foot Classroom Building at 94-43 159th St., which was the first structure built on York’s campus.

Updated renderings of the Ennead Architects-designed center reveal a modern glassy exterior. School officials believe it will revolutionize the experience at York not only because of its appearance, but also because of the various amenities in the building. In addition to the business school, the building will house a bookstore, student common and recreation spaces, a conference center and some administrative offices.

“It will sort of serve as our front door,” said York College President Marcia Keizs. “It will really be, in our minds, a critical facility for us.”

Permits have yet to be filed for the new structure with the Department of Buildings, and the project still needs more funding, according to Keizs.

She added that an anticipated completion date has not been decided.


Jamaica revitalization to benefit from state Brownfield Opportunity Area designation

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

In a sign that the state is looking to help spur Jamaica’s revitalization, 132 acres near the LIRR and JFK AirTrain transit hub have been designated as a Brownfield Opportunity Area, meaning development projects there could receive public funds.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the designation Thursday along with 11 others at sites around the state.

The Brownfield Opportunity Area Program is a state initiative that seeks to transform potentially contaminated or polluted places to better utilized areas. The downtown Jamaica area has 224 potential brownfield sites near the rail station.

Being located in the newly designated area now gives property owners and developers access to Brownfield Cleanup Program tax incentives and they have priority to state grants for projects.

“By designating these sites as Brownfield Opportunity Areas, we are helping to reimagine their potential as vibrant parts of the surrounding communities,” Cuomo said. “This distinction allows us to put their rehabilitation on the fast track with additional state resources, and that means new development, jobs and opportunities in the future.”

Downtown Jamaica, especially near the transit hub area, has seen a lot of real estate development action recently as the market is heating up.

Huge projects, including a 210-room, 24-story hotel nearby the LIRR and AirTrain station at 93-43 Sutphin Blvd. and a $225 million mixed-use, 29-story residential and commercial tower at 93-01 Sutphin Blvd., are coming to the area soon.

Also, massive properties were sold or listed in downtown Jamaica recently, including a 90,000-square-foot building and parking garage at 163-05 and 163-25 Archer Ave. that sold for $22 million in October last year.


L train riders fed up with delays, look to Cuomo for help

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Service problems along one subway line serving Ridgewood has some riders asking, “What the L?”

In recent weeks, the L train has suffered from hour-long delays, overcrowded platforms and other service problems. Riders Alliance member Alexis Saba shared her experience with transit delays. “On [March 17], I waited forever on the L train before we actually left,” she said. “When we finally left, the train crawled to Bedford, and were told that a rail was out and that Bedford was the last stop—and I couldn’t physically get out of the Bedford station due to the crowds.”

The Riders Alliance, a grassroots organization of public transportation riders that pushes for better service and affordable rates, has invited disgruntled subway riders to visit its website and share their “subway horror stories.” As previously reported, the organization plans to present the horror stories to Governor Andrew Cuomo in hopes of enticing him and members of the state Legislature to fully fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) five-year capital plan.

Delays like this are nothing new for the MTA. According to the Riders Alliance, in February, the MTA NYC Transit and Bus Committee Meeting Report showed that subway delays had increased 45.6 percent from 2013 to 2014. With the most recent MTA rate hike, riders are now paying $2.75 for a single fare and $116.50 for a monthly Metrocard, and they are getting worse service, the Riders Alliance charged.

“What we’re hearing from riders is that they feel like we’re paying more and more for less and less,” Deputy Director for the Riders Alliance Nick Sifuentes said.

The MTA’s capital plan of $32 billion will build, repair, maintain and enhance current MTA infrastructure. But the plan faces a $15 billion shortfall, and if this gap is not filled, it will result in increased transit fares, further reductions in service and more repair issues in coming years, the Riders Alliance believes.

“I know the L train horror stories all too well,” state Senator Martin Malave Dilan said. “Frustrated riders write or call my office frequently, some send photos of overcrowded platforms with lines running up the stairs and riders dangerously close to spilling over onto the tracks.”

“The current budget proposal leaves the MTA unable to address these and many issues,” he added. “The MTA capital plan is $15 billion in the red. This year’s proposed $1.6 billion capital allocation will have little effect and the Senate majority’s proposal to reduce it only makes matters worse. It’s irresponsible to ignore these shortfalls. For the daily commuters on the L, it’s inconceivable.”

John Maier, co-chair of the Public Transportation Committee of Community Board 5, feels that “We are at a funding crisis.” With little funding from the government, all expenses have to be paid by the commuter. “Something needs to change,” he continued. “The system needs a lot of help.”

The city’s budget plan is due on April 1, so commuters, elected officials and the MTA must wait to see if any additional funding will be funnelled in to seal the $15 billion gap in the MTA’s budget plan.


MTA to award $236.5M contract to rebuild Queens Midtown Tunnel

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of MTA Bridges and Tunnels/Mark Valentin

One of the city’s tunnel systems is expected to get a much-needed face-lift after being heavily damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that the MTA is expected to award a four-year, $236.5 million contract to rebuild the Queens Midtown Tunnel, which since the 2012 hurricane has been operating with temporary repairs. Around 40 percent of the length of tunnel was submerged in 12 million gallons of salt water during the storm.

The contract, which will be completed with Judlau Contracting Inc., was approved by the MTA Bridges and Tunnels Committee on Monday and is expected to be approved by the full MTA board on Wednesday.

“Superstorm Sandy demonstrated the need for our infrastructure to be safer, stronger and more resilient to meet the challenge of extreme weather, and today, we’re taking another important step in that direction,” Cuomo said. “The Queens Midtown Tunnel is a vital part of the transportation network for the entire metropolitan area, and by undertaking this aggressive renovation we can rebuild from the damage caused by Sandy and ensure that it is protected from future storms.”

Work on the tunnel is expected to begin in the summer and will likely result in nighttime and weekend tube and lane closures. A majority of the work is Sandy-related and will also include several capital projects to try to organize the work and minimize the amount of closures impacting traffic.

Some of the Sandy-related repair and restoration work includes replacing the electrical, lighting, communications, monitoring and control systems in the tunnel. Restoration and mitigation work will also be done at the tunnel’s mid-river pump room.

“This investment in the Midtown Tunnel rehabilitation will restore the roadway to its pre-Sandy state while minimizing disruptions and delays and prioritizing the safety of commuters,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney said.

Structural work at the tunnel includes the replacement of catwalks, duct banks, wall tiles, ceiling finishes, polymer panels, curbs and gutters.

The tunnel is also expected to get new roadway LED lighting and clearly marked exit signs, lights and emergency phones.

Capital projects include replacing the fire line system in both tubes, and a complete rehabilitation of the Manhattan Exit Plaza, including the 36th Street ramp where full and partial repairs will be done.

“When Sandy flooded the Queens Midtown Tunnel with millions of gallons of water, our crews worked valiantly to make immediate repairs and get traffic moving again,” said James Ferrara, MTA Bridges and Tunnels president. “Now we need to fully repair the damage and fortify the tunnel to be more resilient for the future.”


Sunnyside parents, students, teachers protest against Gov. Cuomo’s proposed education reform

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

One Sunnyside school came together to let their teachers know that they support them in the fight against what they call Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial proposed education changes.

Parents and students of P.S. 150, located at 40-01 43rd Ave., gathered with teachers on Thursday afternoon to rally against Cuomo’s plans, which include making teacher evaluations depend heavily on state tests and increasing the number of charter schools.

Once these changes are approved, then $1.1 billion in funding will be added for public schools.

“By increasing the stakes of these high-stake tests you are increasing the pressure on the teachers which then increases pressure on the students to perform,” said Karen Schumacher, a parent of a third-grader at P.S. 150. “There’s more to children, there’s more to teaching than a test score. We want our teachers to know that we love them, we think that they’re doing a great job and that they’re the most important thing and not a standardized test.”

According to Schumacher, along with being a way to show the teachers that the parents and students support them, the rally also serves as a way to let parents know what is going on and understand what the changes mean.

“We want to raise awareness. A lot of parents are busy and not active on social media and politics so they want to let them know what’s going on,” Schumacher added.

During the rally, teachers and students formed a human chain around one-half of the front and side of the school. Participants also handed out flyers with information on the proposed changes and asked parents to sign a postcard to send to Cuomo that read, “Stop waging war on public schools!”

Those who participated during the protest held signs that read messages such as “Protect our schools,” “Hear our (1.1 million) voices,” “We believe in public schools, “Our teachers are more than tests,” and “We support our teachers.”

“We want Gov. Cuomo to listen,” said Joann Rodeschin, UFT chapter leader at P.S. 150, who added that they invite Cuomo to come visit the Sunnyside school. “Kids are not just a test.”

The protest at P.S. 150 is just one of hundreds that took place throughout the five boroughs on Thursday, where parents gathered to form human chains around schools.

“We are proud of being a public school, we love our public schools and we are the parents and the teachers and the students that are affected by these proposals, so we are the ones that should be heard,” said Deborah Alexander, a parent of a student at P.S. 150 who helped organize the rally. “It’s all a political dance and we’re just the pawns, except the pawns are children. It’s very disconcerting.”


City collecting proposals for Sunnyside Yards feasibility study

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYCEDC Sunnyside Yards Feasibility Study RFP

Mayor Bill de Blasio is moving full steam ahead with his plan to create 11,250 housing units over Sunnyside Yards, although Gov. Andrew Cuomo has voiced opposition to it.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC)  announced Friday a request for proposals for a yearlong comprehensive feasibility study for building over the rail yards. The agency is collecting proposals until March 20.

The study will examine the prospect of decking the enormous rail yard, and building homes, schools, open spaces and community facilities for the neighborhood as well as improving public transportation and infrastructure, while not interfering with train operations in the yards.

“This is the first step in understanding whether development of the Sunnyside Yards is possible, and what it could contribute to the city and surrounding communities,” de Blasio said. “This is a tremendous opportunity to deliver on our vision of a more affordable city and smart development that responds to the needs of surrounding neighborhoods.”

De Blasio first announced his plan for the yards during his second State of the City address in January, but hours later Cuomo disagreed with using the yards because of long-term plans for it.

But Cuomo is not the only politician to oppose developing Sunnyside Yards. When an idea to build a new Jacob Javits Center over the rail yards surfaced last year, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan didn’t immediately respond favorably to that plan.

Both shared concerns of major development in the area without first addressing issues current residents are facing, including lack of sufficient public services. State Sen. Michael Gianaris addressed Community Board 2 earlier this month about the proposal as well, and stated similar concerns.

“Any talk of thousands of new housing units at Sunnyside Yards should be secondary to meeting our significant existing infrastructure needs,” Senator Gianaris said. “Western Queens is already in need of many more schools, parks and open spaces, and vastly improved mass transit, particularly on the 7 line. As this process unfolds, I look forward to working with the community to ensure our voices are heard loud and clear when it comes to Sunnyside Yards.”

Building over the yards is a key part to de Blasio’s goal of building and preserving 200,000 affordable housing units — 80,000 of which will be new construction — in the next 10 years.

There are nearly 200 acres of land at the site, 113 acres that are owned by Amtrak, 66 by the MTA and the remainder by private owners, according to the EDC’s request for proposals.

The EDC is working with Amtrak, which is in favor of development over its section of the yards.