On the first cold day of the season, Mayor de Blasio presented his plan Thursday to make sure this winter isn’t like the last one, when thousands of public housing residents endured heating outages that, for some, lasted several days.
New boilers have been installed in 12 developments, with three more about to go on line, the mayor proclaimed. Fifty-seven more heat technicians have been hired. NYCHA is spending $13.1 million a year on two outside firms to help monitor ancient boilers.
Then, about an hour-and-a-half into the press conference, the heat went out for 2,161 tenants at the Rangel Houses in Harlem.
A few hours earlier at 6 a.m. the boilers failed for another 1,771 tenants at the Hammel Houses in Far Rockaway, Queens.
At 10 p.m. the night before, the heat returned after a 32-hour outage at theFulton Houses in Chelsea, Manhattan.
Heat finally switched back on at the Wald Houses — a block from the press conference — the previous afternoon after 28 hours on the fritz.
“Today is not a promising start, and we hope that the city is equipped to avoid a reprise of last year’s nightmare,” declared Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge of the Legal Aid Society, which is suing the housing authority for refunds on behalf of tenants who lost heat last winter.
All of this makes clear the daunting challenge the mayor and NYCHA face as winter approaches. So far de Blasio’s plan to expedite new boilers is behind schedule because the feds have yet to approve a “design-build” schedule that would speed things up.
Last winter more than 300,000 tenants lost heat during the cold season. In March the mayor touted an expedited campaign to upgrade boilers in 20 developments with a best-case estimated completion date of September 2019 with “design-build.” Without it, the best-case finish date is early 2022.
As of Thursday, “design build” has not been triggered, and there’s disagreement over who’s to blame for the delay.
NYCHA says they asked the U.S. Housing & Urban Development Department (HUD) permission for design-build in March. HUD officials say that after months of discussions, on Aug. 3 HUD requested NYCHA provide them with a “specific request for waivers and modifications to the standard construction approach.”
HUD spokeswoman Olga Alvarez told The News that NYCHA submitted “partial information” to HUD on Sept. 12, and HUD is still awaiting the requested detailed documents from NYCHA.
During a press conference Thursday at the Lower East Side Rehab development on E. 6th St., de Blasio and NYCHA officials made the case that this year they’re better prepared. With new NYCHA boiler technicians and the two private firms, National Grid and GSL, monitoring boilers, they insisted the authority will be able to respond much faster when the heat goes out.
They’re sealing up 9,600 drafty windows at senior citizen developments, and for the first time NYCHA will follow up by phone with tenants in buildings where the system is back on line to make sure it’s functioning in all apartments.
Last year residents in some buildings complained they had no heat even after NYCHA claimed the outage was over.
The mayor, however, made a point of tamping down great expectations going forward.
“The truth is, we’re not saying we think everything is going to be perfect this coming winter,” he said. “I don’t think New Yorkers like to be taken down the primrose path. If people want to hear that we’re not out of the woods yet, I am happy to tell them. But we’re not out of the woods yet. I wish I had a different message.”
How Leaves, Icicles and an Old Bridge Can Complicate Commutes
Each day this week, New Jersey Transit has heaped extra frustration onto its clients by warning them that their morning trains may very well be delayed by “slippery rail” circumstances.
To some beleaguered riders, that clarification appeared like a concocted excuse for the railroad’s persevering with wrestle to function on time. A number of even challenged it.
Slippery rail circumstances? I like the creativity but it surely’s 55 levels and barely misting.
— Neil Shapiro (@neilsshapiro) November 5, 2018
Slippery rails is, in reality, an issue and is simply one of many causes New Jersey has cited to elucidate the delays and disruptions which have plagued its service. Others have included “manpower scarcity,” annulments, a malfunctioning Portal Bridge and the mysterious “ice patrol.” (One clarification that veteran commuters take severely is “trespasser incident,” which they know means somebody was hit by a prepare.)
Right here’s a translation of those numerous bêtes noires and why any one among them can damage a commuter’s day.
Do prepare tracks actually get slippery in Autumn?
Monday by Thursday, New Jersey Transit mentioned its prepare service may very well be delayed by as a lot as 30 minutes due to rails made slippery by fallen leaves. The company mentioned that is an “age-old” drawback that impacts all railroads within the Northeast within the fall.
Certainly, commuter railroads from Boston to Philadelphia had been citing slippery rails as a reason behind delays this week. Slippery tracks had been blamed for railroad delays even in England this week.
The situation is brought on by the heavy metal wheels of trains crushing fallen leaves and producing an oily residue or the tracks, New Jersey Transit mentioned. When the trains can not get traction, they’ve hassle braking and getting as much as full velocity between stations, it mentioned.
The railroad tries to reduce the consequences by trimming bushes alongside the tracks and by dispatching trains with particular tools, generally known as Aqua Observe, which energy washes the rails.
What’s a Portal Bridge and why does it get caught so usually?
Final week, the reason for prepare delays was not slippery rails however a balky outdated bridge. The Portal Bridge, a 108-year-old swing bridge that carries trains over the Hackensack River, is an notorious choke level on the Northeast Hall between New York Metropolis and Newark.
The bridge pivots to permit boats to move by however usually fails to lock again into place, blocking visitors to and from Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan. When that occurs, Amtrak, which owns and operates the bridge, could need to dispatch a crew to hammer the rails till they line up once more.
New Jersey Transit mentioned there had been 326 delays within the final 12 months “associated to Amtrak Portal Bridge points.”
Amtrak has partnered with New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on a plan to interchange the bridge with a better, fastened span. However that undertaking is estimated to value $1.5 billion and the sponsors are hoping the federal authorities will cowl about half of that quantity.
Is the Ice Patrol actual or a whimsical excuse?
Credit scoreÁngel Franco/The New York Instances
Veteran commuters know that as certainly as winter follows fall, the “ice patrol” will succeed slippery rails as a reason behind delays.
Far-fetched as it could sound, throughout spells of very chilly climate, Amtrak sends a crew into the tunnels beneath the Hudson River to take away icicles. The ice that varieties on the ceiling of the century-old tunnels interferes with the flexibility of trains to attract energy from the overhead electrical wires.
Staff clear the icicles the old style method: they stand on a rail automobile and whack them with lengthy poles which have hammer heads. However whereas they’re doing that just one observe is out there between New York Metropolis and New Jersey, a state of affairs generally known as “single-tracking.” Hardened commuters know that single-tracking can wreak havoc on their journeys to work or again dwelling.
Why is Amtrak being blamed?
CreditJohn Taggart for The New York Instances
A pet peeve of many New Jersey Transit riders is the railroad’s propensity to assign blame for delays to Amtrak. The 2 railroads have a landlord-tenant relationship that at many instances has been lower than pleasant.
The stress stems from New Jersey Transit’s reliance on Amtrak property, together with Penn Station and the tracks that lead from all of it the way in which previous the state capitol in Trenton. Amtrak’s rails, bridges and indicators usually malfunction, inflicting delays for all commuters heading to or from New York Metropolis. When that occurs New Jersey Transit makes clear in its bulletins that that is an Amtrak drawback.
The Portal Bridge alternative is an element of a bigger undertaking, generally known as Gateway, that would come with including two tracks in a brand new tunnel beneath the Hudson River. Whether it is accomplished, Gateway might cut back conflicts between the 2 railroads.
Is there a employee scarcity and does it trigger annulments?
Throughout the summer season, New Jersey Transit had a rash of cancellations of scheduled trains. But it surely described lots of these cancellations as “annulments,” a time period that irritated some clients.
Nancy Snyder, a spokeswoman for the railroad, defined that it reserved the time period “canceled” for trains that began their runs however didn’t full them due to a breakdown or another drawback. Trains that by no means began their scheduled runs had been “annulled.” she mentioned. She mentioned there had been three,539 annulments and 705 cancellations this 12 months, which mixed amounted to 1 of each 43 scheduled trains.
The reason for lots of these of annulments and cancellations was a scarcity of engineers to drive the trains and the sidelining of locomotives to put in an automated braking system, generally known as Constructive Prepare Management. Unable to satisfy its schedule, even after lowering service this spring, New Jersey Transit pared again its schedule once more in October.
However the railroad has continued to cancel trains, although it has dropped references to annulments. “Cancellation is a time period extra broadly used and understood,” Ms. Snyder mentioned.
This fall, New Jersey Transit’s go-to clarification for canceling trains has been a “manpower scarcity.” State officers have taken a number of steps to recruit and prepare extra engineers, together with waiving a requirement that they dwell within the state. This week, New Jersey Transit introduced that it had obtained greater than 5,000 functions in its quest “to revive the railroad to a full complement of educated engineers.”
Why is Staten Island the only borough not connected to NYC by subway?: NYCurious
This is part of our series NYCurious, where we answer your questions about the city. Tweet or Facebook Message your queries to us at @amNewYork, with #NYCurious.
Staten Island is the only New York City borough not connected to the subway. Isolated by water on all sides, residents of what’s often dubbed the “forgotten borough” have to depend on a 25-minute Staten Island Ferry ride before their feet even touch a subway platform.
But, did you know Staten Island had a plan for a subway that was never built?
Construction was started; officials were excited for it; but everything came to a halt, leaving many with suspicions that have lingered for decades.
What actually happened to the project? Scroll down to learn more.
What was the proposal?
The Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT), now known as the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the MTA, was the private operator of the original subway lines in 1904. They joined other transit systems in the New York City boroughs to create services that connect Queens, the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn.
That, of course, left out Staten Island. At the time, Staten Island Borough President George Cromwell insisted the borough deserved a physical connection to the rest of the city, according to archives from the Staten Island Museum. In 1912, a Cromwell plan was approved that called for a tunnel between Tompkinsville and 67th Street in Brooklyn, but that was shelved when Cromwell was defeated at the polls in 1913.
By 1918, Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT) revived the proposal with the idea of a subway tunnel that would connect the borough to the IRT system.
“This was a period of time when New York City was becoming the city we see it as today,” said Jonathan Peters, a professor of finance and data analytics at the College of Staten Island and transportation researcher for the Staten Island Museum’s archives. “Staten Island became a part of New York City for this exact reason — for transit connections, with easy access into the city.”
Plans were put in motion by the 1920s, when officials decided to connect Staten Island’s pre-existing railway (then known as Staten Island Rapid Transit and owned by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad) in St. George to the rest of the subway system at the 59th Street station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, which is now served by N and R trains. The trip was projected to take between eight and 10 minutes, according to an old newsletter from the Westerleigh Improvement Society.
By this time, slogans such as “Ten minutes to Broadway,” “A subway for Richmond,” and “To and thru without transfer,” were posted around Staten Island, envisioning a brighter future.
“The tunnel at the 59th Street station was awaiting the arrival of a train from Staten Island,” said Peters. “And Staten Islanders were waiting for it, too. The subway would have not only helped the borough’s population growth, which was barely 200,000 at the time, but it would have changed the communities along the stops.”
Before construction could begin, however, the BRT went bankrupt.
Tunnels to nowhere
In 1921, then-Mayor John F. Hylan and the city’s representatives in Albany introduced a bill requiring New York City to construct a freight and passenger tunnel under the Narrows, the tunnel straight between Staten Island and Brooklyn, Home Reporter and Sunset News reported in 1964.
Though the tunnel would no longer serve as an extension of the subway system, it was to operate as a separate railroad. A connection was to be built for the passenger tube at the Fourth Avenue subway, while the freight connection was to be with the Long Island Rail Road near Sixth Avenue, Brooklyn, said Peters and articles from the SI Museum archives.
Excavations began on April 14, 1923, at Shore Road in Bay Ridge. Three months later, construction on the Staten Island side near Victory Boulevard in Tompkinsville started.
The project consisted of building two 24-foot tunnel tubes on either side, totaling four altogether. The Brooklyn-Richmond Freight and Passenger Tunnel was expected to be the longest underwater tunnel by its completion in 1929, reported the Staten Island Advance.
Staten Island residents were given hope whenever they saw the sign at the construction site that read, “On this site will be sunk the Staten Island shaft of the freight and passenger tunnel . . . across the Narrows,” according to SI Museum archives.
The plan gave the Staten Island Rapid Transit an opportunity to transition its trains from steam-powered locomotives to Brooklyn-style electric cars, the Home Reporter and Sunset News reported. However, by the time the luxury upgrade was finished in 1925, the tunnel idea had been put back on the shelf.
“Staten Island electrified their trains because they wanted to match what the Brooklyn subway cars looked like,” said Peters. “Staten Island was gearing up to be a part of the subway system. But now with plans out the door, having the trains electrified gave the borough hope that someday they would get the subway system connected.”
The construction itself only lasted a year. Shafts from ground level down to the tunnel had already been built on both east- and westbound sides, extending 150 feet into the harbor.
Bids for further construction were advertised in 1925, but no contractors jumped on it. The idea of a railroad or freight line lingered for a while, before being completely “forgotten” like its borough’s nickname, by the 1930s.
According to several archive news clippings, the city spent $6 million, yet the only thing left to show for it is Brooklyn’s side of the tunnel, which still exists under Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge.
Why was construction halted?
John Delaney, chairman of the Board of Transportation, gave Staten Island the news when he stated the tunnel connection would not be a priority.
“I think I can say with authority that the city will first take care of new subways,” the New York Herald Tribune reported Delaney said in 1924. “I’m convinced that they are more important than the tunnel to Staten Island. We need new lines in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. These are our first objectives.”
However, many theories have surfaced over the years as to what really happened to the tunnel project.
One theory is that then-Mayor Hylan, who had previously been fired by the BRT, tried to get back at the transit system by putting them in bankruptcy. Had the company not gone bankrupt, the project could have continued and eventually been completed, many believe.
Hylan, however, said in the Sunset News article the tunnel would have been “one of the greatest public improvements the great City of New York has ever undertaken.”
Another theory revolves around former Gov. Alfred Smith, who at the time had stock in the Pennsylvania Railroad, which was a big competitor to Baltimore & Ohio. Word spread that Smith potentially feared the construction of the freight tunnel would destroy his monopoly on cross-Hudson cargo transport, The New York Times reported.
Smith reportedly said the tunnel to Staten Island would be “hope and a hole in the ground.”
Peters admits the Brooklyn-Richmond freight and passenger rail was not a priority at the time, but insists it’s more than just a story of bad planning.
“The focus has often always been on Manhattan; look at its economic success. There’s a strong bias against Staten Island versus other parts of the city,” said Peters. “Whether it was funding or politics, no one will ever admit whatever the behind the scenes reasons was. And yet even years later, we sit here with questions and a tunnel that was never finished.”
The idea of Staten Island having a subway connection is still talked about.
Many residents wonder if a subway on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge would have been a feasible fix, but we can’t reconstruct history.
“It’s an unfortunate missed opportunity that we cannot fix today,” said Peters. “[Builder] Robert Moses could have included it into his plans when constructing the bridge, but the vision was the subway idea would diminish, and automobiles were the future.”
Today the Staten Island Ferry sees more than 70,000 passengers daily who commute via mass transportation rather than drive on congested highways.
Peters said to have a subway in Staten Island in 2018 would be “greatly needed, but realistically? It will never happen.”
In 2010, legislation was introduced in the City Council that called on the city Department of Transportation and the MTA to “institute a plan for the construction of a Trans-Narrows Tunnel between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island for the purposes of connecting the Staten Island railway to the New York City subway system.”
Nothing further came about until six years later when Borough President James Oddo received a letter from MTA head Tom Prendergast, in which he described exactly why a subway tunnel would never make its way to the borough.
Prendergast wrote that a rail connecting Staten Island to Brooklyn would be challenging, stating that funding constraints were a major consideration in the decision to not undertake a complex and politically charged project, the Staten Island Advance reported.
One of Prendergast’s main concerns was that, if it were to happen, operating additional service along the Fourth Avenue N and R lines in Brooklyn would be “extremely challenging on the Staten Island side.”
In 2010, state Sen. Diane Savino tried reigniting the proposal, the Staten Island Advance reported, but stated it would set the city back by $3 billion.
However, if the New York City Transit Authority ever received funding to make the tunnel a reality, Prendergast wrote, “the hypothetical ‘next steps’ would be to start with some sort of high level needs/feasibility study to understand what the potential benefits for this would be, what sort of land use changes it would induce, what development would be required and what sort of routing and service options would be feasible.”
For now residents will have to continue to rely on the ferry.
MTA tests subway signals, plans fixes to get trains moving faster
Trains should be able to pass a green subway signal between 81st and 72nd streets beneath Central Park West at a hair below 25 mph.
But during a recent rush-hour B train run, MTA train operator Kenric Lever slowed down so he would pass the signal at 13 mph.
“If you’re going the 25 that they tell you to go? Impossible,” Lever said.
He worried that a malfunction in the signal would raise a track-level stop arm — called a stopcock — that would automatically engage the brakes if he passed it near 25 mph.
If Lever’s train suddenly braked to a stop, it would be delayed and possibly sent off schedule. One off-schedule train can have a domino effect that throws other trains off schedule too.
The MTA’s Save Safe Seconds program, which aims to speed up subway service, has discovered 191 malfunctioning signal timers like the one that slows Lever between the 81st Street and 72nd Street stations.
One of the program’s aims is to make sure trains enter stations at “maximum attainable speed for the area.”
Between the rush hours, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., radar-gun equipped transit supervisors have been testing signals to see if trains can clear them at normal speeds. If the train’s brakes are tripped, they know something’s wrong with the signal.
The MTA has tested signals on about 90% of the subway system since September.
Transit officials plan a program to fix malfunctioning signals. They’ll start on the 1 and Q lines. Then they’ll move on to the D, N and R lines in Brooklyn’s Fourth Ave. line. They also plan to fix signals on the J, M and Z lines on the Williamsburg Bridge and east of Essex St. so they’ll be in shape before the L train shutdown in April.
Fixing the signals and reviewing speed limits will let trains run faster, transit officials say.
One updated speed limit lets Manhattan-bound A and C trains move at 15 mph between the Lafayette Ave. and Hoyt-Schermerhorn stations. For the previous 80 years, they’d been restricted to 10 mph, said Barry Greenblatt, NYC Transit’s subway service delivery chief.
“We’re looking at places where we can safely increase speeds,” Greenblatt told The News. “The one thing we’re looking at is, did we go too far?”
The signal timers are decades-old technology. More have been added to the system since two deadly crashes in the 1990s at Union Square and on the Williamsburg Bridge.
Train operators tell the News that the strict discipline culture at the MTA makes them fearful to pass some signals at posted speeds. They say that means they run trains at slower speeds, slowing down service.
“Everybody is like so afraid of any kind of mishap, even when it’s not your fault,” said one operator who was disciplined after his emergency brake was tripped for tripped when he overran a 20-mph signal timer in the Bronx at 5 mph.
MTA officials say they hope fixing the signals will lead train operators to realize they can safely run trains faster, without fear of discipline.
In the meantime, train operators said they’ll keep relying on their experience and tips from senior crew to know how fast they can move without their emergency brakes going off.
“It adds a level of stress and uncertainty that someone who’s responsible for carrying thousands of passengers really doesn’t need,” said Seth Rosenberg, a train operator for 11 years and a union shop steward. “We should be able to follow the rules.”
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