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Advocates pitch congestion pricing for transit upgrades, but ‘fact sheets’ omit funding shortfall



bridge new york

Congestion-pricing supporters are trying to drive their point home with New Yorkers—even if it means taking a few shortcuts.

Transit advocates debuted 19 “fact sheets” at a Penn Station news conference on Wednesday that outline neighborhood upgrades needing funding and urge support for a plan to charge vehicles for entering Manhattan’s business district.

They don’t mention what plan supporter Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged in his budget address this month: Congestion pricing would generate roughly $15 billion, while the subway and bus upgrades are from a proposal called Fast Forward requiring $40 billion and potentially more. Further, suburban legislators are likely to demand some of the road-pricing revenue for Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s commuter rail systems.

Still, it is unclear how the MTA, which in recent years has been spending only about $5 billion a year on capital work, could afford to modernize its aging system without extra revenue from congestion pricing.
“The fact sheets show riders what to expect if the governor and state Legislature enact congestion pricing—and what they’ll miss out on if their elected officials fail to act,” the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s website says.

The advertised enhancements include speedier subway service, additional buses, and new or repaired escalators, elevators and stairs.
“These are the kind of improvements that we’ll actually see if we can get Fast Forward done and get the MTA the funding that it needs,” said Nick Sifuentes, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “So that’s what we’re talking about in these fact sheets, at a very local level: what are those improvements that you’ll see in your neighborhood if we actually move forward in funding the MTA.”

Sifuentes and his colleagues intend to share the materials with state legislators, who would have to approve any congestion pricing plan, as well as with residents and community groups.

The governor has repeatedly demanded the city split the remainder of Fast Forward’s price tag with the state, to the chagrin of Mayor Bill de Blasio. The transit advocates at Wednesday’s news event, however, hedged on whether they would support that—even though many of the improvements in the fact sheets depend on complete funding of Fast Forward.

“This is the beginning of the conversation, so there’s a lot of negotiation that will take place,” said Kate Slevin, senior vice president of state programs and advocacy at the Regional Plan Association. She and Sifuentes told Crain’s that the coalition has always made clear that congestion pricing alone would not fund the improvements, and that lawmakers are well aware of that.

Slevin added that if the state insists on a major city contribution, it should grant the de Blasio administration authority to raise additional revenues through local levies, a notion bound to prove controversial. De Blasio’s favored mechanism, an increased city income tax on high earners, is opposed by the governor, and support from state legislators would be uncertain. It would be insufficient to fund Fast Forward by itself.

Congestion pricing has been on the drawing board for Manhattan since 2007, but this year it has its best chance of passing, thanks to an increasing realization that the transit system needs a major funding boost to provide acceptable service.


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9-year-old genius to graduate university




Laurent Simons

(CNN) – A child prodigy from Belgium is on course to gain a bachelor’s degree at the tender age of 9.

Laurent Simons is studying electrical engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) — a tough course even for students of an average graduate age.

Described by staff as “simply extraordinary,” Laurent is on course to finish his degree in December.

He then plans to embark on a PhD program in electrical engineering while also studying for a medicine degree, his father told CNN.

His parents, Lydia and Alexander Simons, said they thought Laurent’s grandparents were exaggerating when they said he had a gift, but his teachers soon concurred.

“They noticed something very special about Laurent,” said Lydia.

Laurent was given test after test as teachers tried to work out the extent of his talents. “They told us he is like a sponge,” said Alexander.

While Laurent comes from a family of doctors, his parents have so far not received any explanation as to why their child prodigy is capable of learning so quickly.

But Lydia has her own theory.

“I ate a lot of fish during the pregnancy,” she joked.

The TUE has allowed Laurent to complete his course faster than other students.

“That is not unusual,” said Sjoerd Hulshof, education director of the TUE bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, in a statement.

“Special students that have good reasons for doing so can arrange an adjusted schedule. In much the same way we help students who participate in top sport.”

Hulshof said Laurent is “simply extraordinary” and praised the youngster.

“Laurent is the fastest student we have ever had here,” he said. “Not only is he hyper intelligent but also a very sympathetic boy.”

Laurent told CNN his favorite subject is electrical engineering and he’s also “going to study a bit of medicine.”

His progress has not gone unnoticed and he is already being sought out by prestigious universities around the world, although Laurent’s family wouldn’t be drawn on naming which of them he is considering for his PhD.

“The absorption of information is no problem for Laurent,” said his father.

“I think the focus will be on research and applying the knowledge to discover new things.”

While Laurent is evidently able to learn faster than most, his parents are being careful to let him enjoy himself too.

“We don’t want him to get too serious. He does whatever he likes,” said Alexander. “We need to find a balance between being a child and his talents.”

Laurent said he enjoys playing with his dog Sammy and playing on his phone, like many young people.

However, unlike most 9-year-olds, he has already worked out what he wants to do with his life: develop artificial organs.

In the meantime, Laurent has to finish his bachelor’s degree and choose which academic institution will play host to the next stage in his remarkable journey.

Before that, he plans on taking a vacation to Japan for an undoubtedly well-deserved break.

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New award to honor arts and activism named after Lena Horne




Lena Horne

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Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem




Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem

Two gangbangers aimed their BMW like a missile at a father and his 8-year-old son on a Harlem sidewalk in a horrifying incident captured by video distributed by police Thursday.

The BMW — driven by a man police believe is a member of the Gorilla Stone Bloods Gang — was zeroed in on the father, a rival gang member, said cops.

Around 3:45 p.m. Nov. 6, the boy and his father were walking on W. 112th St. by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. when the BMW jumped the sidewalk and slammed into them both, said cops.

Father and son were both knocked through a gate.

The BMW driver then backed up — and its driver and passenger, also believed to be a gang member, jumped out of the car and ran toward the father and the son.

One of the attackers slashed the father, identified by sources as 32-year-old Brian McIntosh, who’s served prison time for robbery and bail jumping.

McIntosh and his son went to Harlem Hospital. Miraculously, the boy escaped serious harm.

McIntosh was so adamant about refusing to help police catch his attackers that the young boy’s mother had to file a police report alleging he was the victim of a crime, police sources said.

Cops released video of the attack, and ask anyone with information about the suspects to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.


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