MTA gets earful about L train and station crowding

Straphangers head upstairs to exit the First Avenue L station on a recent morning. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Straphangers head upstairs to exit the First Avenue L station on a recent morning. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Representatives from the Metropolitan Transit Authority made an appearance at Community Board 6’s most recent transportation committee meeting to discuss the lack of distinguishing lights on SBS buses and the ongoing issue of overcrowding at the First Avenue L train station.

Residents at the meeting said that their concerns were more about dangerous conditions at the station due to the crowds, rather than it just being a nuisance.

“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” said one Stuyvesant Town resident at the meeting. “It’s routinely dangerous and way beyond annoying because everyone masses at the station’s exits.”

Others at the meeting agreed, adding that on top of the station’s increasing popularity as more people have moved to Williamsburg, the lack of multiple exits results in commuters packing the end of the train and causing hazardous conditions on the platform because of the pushing and shoving of the crowd.

“We acknowledge that (there are overcrowding problems),” Rob Marino, the MTA deputy director of government and community relations, said in response. “The station was built in 1924 and was probably not designed for the level of service that it receives now.”

Transportation committee member Fred Arcaro asked about the possibility of conducting a study to increase the number of trains but according to MTA representative Marcus Book, there have been studies done determining when the train is the busiest and the L is already running at capacity at those times, he said.

Stuy Town resident and Transportation Committee Member Larry Scheyer asked about the possibility of building another entrance to the station at Avenue A in an attempt to balance out the crowds. CB6 Chair Sandro Sherrod added that there was discussion in CB6 about four years ago about L train crowding at the station and the MTA had discussed the possibility of doing a feasibility study on an eastern entrance for the station. But both Marino and Book said that there were no plans for such a study at the moment and although they understand it’s a problem, building an entirely new entrance is an “expensive proposition.” They had no other information about solutions for the time being, other than to say that the issue was “on the radar.”

Meanwhile, area residents also shared their concerns about the SBS blue lights with the MTA reps.

A lack of the flashing blue lights that used to announce the impending arrival of the SBS express buses have been a problem for bus riders since Staten Island representatives pressured the MTA to turn them off at the end of 2012. SBS buses were put into service in 2008 and the lights caused no problems until Staten Island got its first SBS bus in late 2012 and then-MTA commissioner Joe Lhota agreed to turn them off at the beginning of 2013.

Marino said at the meeting that at the time SBS routes were initially rolled out, the NYPD had no problems with the flashing blue lights on the front of the buses, but Staten Island representatives later protested the lights, saying that they were too similar to volunteer emergency vehicles and were causing too much confusion for drivers.

Since the lights were turned off about a year ago, the MTA has been trying to work with the State DMV to find an alternative but have had no luck so far, as most other light colors are also reserved for emergency vehicles by law.

Local elected officials have introduced legislation that would allow purple lights and although it will be reintroduced in the next Assembly and State Senate sessions, Staten Island representatives have said that they oppose any lights for the vehicles.

As a result of the difficulty in getting the lights restored, the MTA has been exploring other options.

“We’re looking into doing things that are not regulated by the state and will hopefully be able to do something to designate (SBS buses),” Marino said. He added that the MTA is coming up with such a plan, one that doesn’t involve lights at all. He wasn’t able to give any details at the meeting but said that he was hoping they would be able to announce the plan soon.

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Lhota now chief of staff at NYU Langone

Joe Lhota at a mayoral forum held last year (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Joe Lhota at a mayoral forum held last year (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

It doesn’t quite have the ring to it that “Mayor Lhota” would have, but the former Republican mayoral contender now has a new job with multiple impressive titles. As of January 6, the former head of the MTA will become chief of staff, senior vice president and vice dean at NYU Langone Medical Center.

In his new role, Joe Lhota will be responsible for “helping to further align and integrate our hospitals and the School of Medicine,” the hospital said in an internal memo. The news was first reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Lhota’s replacing Tony Shorris, who left NYU Langone on December 31 to serve as first deputy mayor under Mayor de Blasio.

He’ll be reporting directly to Robert I. Grossman, the hospital’s CEO, and will serve as an advisor on management and policy issues as well as an ambassador to government and other officials.

“I am excited to join the talented leadership team at NYU Langone,” Lhota said in a statement through the hospital. “A true visionary, Dr. Grossman has bold plans for the organization, and I am look forward to taking part in what lies ahead for this great organization.”

In the memo, Grossman noted Lhota’s 35 years of managerial experience from the MTA to his working for the Giuliani administration as deputy mayor for operations. Then there’s the corporate resume: Lhota also served as executive vice president of administration for the Madison Square Garden Company and held several executive positions with Cablevision.

“Joe’s unique blend of corporate management and public sector leadership, in addition to his accomplishments as an executive in complex organizations, will make him a great asset to our team and important to our ongoing success,” said Grossman.

ST resident voters wanted change from Bloomberg era

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, pictured in Stuyvesant Town in August, was elected mayor. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, pictured in Stuyvesant Town in August, was elected mayor. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

New Yorkers elected a new mayor for the first time in 12 years this past Tuesday and for the first time in over 20 years, made a Democrat the city’s leader. The New York Times called the election for Democrat Bill de Blasio based only on exit poll data because the margin was so wide. According to the unofficial results from the Board of Elections, the city’s current public advocate received 73.34 percent of the vote and Republican Joe Lhota received 24.27 percent.

Current Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer also enjoyed a landslide victory in the city comptroller race, getting about 80.53 percent of the vote. His Republican challenger, Wall Streeter John Burnett, got only 16.63 percent.

Locally, City Council Member Dan Garodnick was able to retain his seat with 70.25 percent of the vote over Republican newcomer Helene Jnane, who got 29.75 percent.

At the polls, some voters felt it was important to vote because of issues such as tenants’ rights.

“It’s always about that,” one Stuyvesant Town resident who didn’t want to be named said after voting at the community center. “Without tenants’ rights, we can’t live here. Your vote always comes down to where you live.”

A number of residents, however, were motivated to cast their ballots because of Bloomberg fatigue.

Council Member Dan Garodnick, shown with son Asher at his polling place in Peter Cooper, was reelected. (Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick)

Council Member Dan Garodnick, shown with son Asher at his polling place in Peter Cooper, was reelected. (Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick)

“I’m so done with 12 years of Bloomberg,” said Lisa Baum, a Stuyvesant Town resident. “He’s done a lot of damage to our city. This isn’t the city that we had before he came into office. I’m raising a child and there is more homelessness in the city now. She sees that, she sees the homelessness.”

Mary, a Peter Cooper Village resident who declined to give her last name, said she was hoping for a Democrat in the mayor’s office after more than a decade of Bloomberg. “He wants more tourists in the city,” she said. “He cares more about tourists than he does about citizens.”

Mary Garvey, a Stuyvesant Town resident and a teacher, said that she is hoping for changes in education as well as changes in general. “New York is a very wealthy city,” she said. “But we need to think about all the people, not just the wealthy.”

The Board of Elections approved a decision in mid-October to use six-point font on the ballots for this election and a number of elected officials have come out against this move because it makes the ballots more difficult for voters to read.

“Voters have a right to clear, readable ballots,” Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh said. “Shrinking the words to a minuscule six-point font is simply not acceptable. We have legislation that would make this impermissible — and would make it easier for boards of elections to design ballots that are clearer in a variety of ways — but it shouldn’t take an act of the legislature to make sure people with reasonably good eyesight can actually read the names of the people they’re voting for.”

One poll worker stationed in the site at 360 First Avenue said that voters were making complaints about how difficult the ballot was to read all morning. Garvey, who voted at the community center polling site, said that she didn’t have too much trouble reading the ballot, but she worried that seniors might. “The proposals are a very important part of voting and the font for those is so small,” she said.

As with elections in the past, redistricting in the neighborhood has shuffled polling sites around, sometimes leaving residents confused about where they were supposed to vote.

Madge Stager, a Stuyvesant Town resident who voted at the community center, said that it took her 20 minutes to figure out where she was supposed to go because she went to her regular polling place and only then discovered that the site had changed. She ultimately figured out that she was supposed to vote in the community center at 449 East 14th Street but said that she never received any notice about a change, and the site coordinator at the community center, Donna Canton, said that polling places have been changing frequently.

“They redistricted again after last year’s general election and they shouldn’t be doing that,” Canton said. “My polling site last year was 283 Avenue C and now it’s 10 Stuyvesant Oval, and even one of my neighbors in my building has a different poll site.”

Other than these few hiccups, poll workers said that everything was going relatively smoothly on Tuesday morning. They noted that voter turnout was heavy and the residents that came out were more than happy to do their civic duty.

“I’m glad to vote,” Garvey said. “It’s a moment of optimism. Voting always makes me very emotional.”

Editorial: Town & Village endorses de Blasio for mayor, Garodnick for Council

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio

In September, Town & Village endorsed Public Advocate Bill de Blasio for mayor, because we believed out of all the candidates in that cluttered ballot, he was the best hope for the middle class in this city, in particular the city’s tenant population, because he would be the most effective fighter. At this time, with de Blasio set to face off against Joe Lhota, we still believe that to be true.

We do not however believe the fear mongering arguments by Lhota that if de Blasio is elected, New York City will return to the bad old days of muggers and squeegee men ruling the streets. This is simply the kind of mud slinging that reads as desperate as Lhota’s numbers in the polls continue to show that the residents of this city are in deed ready for change after 12 years of the same Republican mayor. We also don’t buy Lhota’s blasting of de Blasio’s “tale of two cities” shtick as being divisive, because that kind of division doesn’t need to be manufactured; it’s long been felt by people who have for some time been living in fear of being priced out of this city as the mayor has taken a mostly hands-off approach to matters like disappearing rent regulated housing and salaries that just haven’t kept pace with rising housing costs, including the yearly increases approved by the Rent Guidelines Board.

While Lhota has said he was committed to building new housing by offering tax incentives, de Blasio has been a lot more specific in his promises to build more of the affordable kind of housing and in protecting the existing stock of it by having City Hall work with (or put pressure on) the governor to get results in Albany on local housing laws. In an op-ed in this newspaper, he discussed the community of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village in particular, noting that, “It’s the responsibility of the city to ensure that these homes and other affordability housing are never beyond the reach of middle class New Yorkers.”

Lhota believes de Blasio to be an all-talk-and-no-action kind of candidate, but as with any election, all voters can do, whether they support de Blasio or Lhota, is decide whether their campaigns seem credible. In Lhota’s case, his platform is built around admittedly worthy goals of job creation in fields like bio-tech and science and also helping the economy by encouraging more tourism. However, when it comes to affordable housing, his only real plan is to review how taxes are charged to property owners. This won’t necessarily lead to lower costs for owners or tenants.

Interestingly, although de Blasio’s accepted plenty of real estate campaign cash (as Lhota’s been quick to correctly point out) the Democratic candidate still won the primary. This was in all likelihood based on the big promises he has made to the middle class and voters will be watching to see if and how he intends to make good on those promises if he can pull it off again and win the general election on November 5. That said, we hope he does. De Blasio has our endorsement for mayor.

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Residents choose de Blasio

De Blasio, Lhota, Mendez, Brewer top in primary

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh and staffer Anna Pycior campaign for Gale Brewer outside Stuy Town on Tuesday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh and staffer Anna Pycior campaign for Gale Brewer outside Stuy Town on Tuesday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

After a long and contentious primary season and a race with more Democrats than can be counted on one hand, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio climbed to the top of the pack in the election on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, it was still unclear whether or not de Blasio, who at times during the campaign lagged in fourth place behind City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, former City Comptroller Bill Thompson and former Congressman Anthony Weiner, would avoid a runoff with Thompson.

According to election results from the New York Times, de Blasio won all of the districts in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, as well as most of the surrounding districts except for some in the Flatiron area and Gramercy, which went to Quinn. The Republican primary was only slightly more split, with former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota winning all of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village districts except two.

The race was too close to call between de Blasio and Thompson on Tuesday night. While various news sources put de Blasio slightly over the requisite 40 percent at around midnight, Thompson said that he would continue his campaign until all of the ballots were counted, which could take days. As of Wednesday morning, the Board of Elections said that de Blasio had 40.13 percent of the vote with Thompson at 26.16 percent.

Quinn, the longtime frontrunner, conceded on Tuesday night with only 15 percent of the vote and disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner ducked out early in the vote-tallying with less than five percent.

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Residents unsure who to vote for

Undecided republican voters Aaron and Dorothy Wilkinson Photo by Sabina Mollot

Undecided republican voters Aaron and Dorothy Wilkinson
Photo by Sabina Mollot

By Sabina Mollot

The primary for the mayoral election as well as other citywide positions is right around the corner, but in Peter Cooper Village (always an area with impressive voter turnout), residents are still saying they don’t know who they’ll be voting for.

A Town & Village reporter cornered people who were minding their own business, sitting out on the benches this week, to ask about who they think they’ll choose. In response, all those interviewed said they had no idea or were still on the fence about a couple of candidates. Most also seemed unimpressed by the current crop of candidates running for mayor.

One senior couple, Paul and Gerry Singer, said they’d been following news about the upcoming primary to some degree. However, due to their having just moved to PCV from Nassau County, were at this time ineligible to vote.

Still, Gerry said she was torn between current frontrunners Public Advocate Bill De Blasio and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

“I like what they have to say,” she said. “Whether it’s true or not I won’t find out unfortunately until after one of them is elected.”

“It’s very hard to choose,” said Paul. The candidates “will say, ‘We’re going to stop stop-and-frisk, but they don’t say how. They make a lot of statements and they expect you to trust them upfront.”

Frances Jivekian, who worked in catering until retiring recently, said, “I’d vote for Bloomberg if he was running again.” That said, she was not a big fan of the bike lanes he instituted, blasting the one on First Avenue as dangerous. As for the current candidates, “I’m still undecided, but I will probably vote for Quinn,” said Jivekian. “She’s my favorite. I like the woman and I’m a democrat. I don’t like that other guy, that big guy,” she said in reference to the towering de Blasio.

Pal Brenda Satzman, who until recently worked in floral design, said she isn’t going to be voting. She normally doesn’t vote in mayoral or gubernatorial races anyway, “unless there’s a character I’m interested in. I know the issues are very important but who’s going to be listening to those issues?”

She, too, said she likes the current mayor but said none of the current candidates stands out for her.

Heidi Clever, who works in the fashion industry, said education is a deciding issue for her when voting. At this time, she’s torn between de Blasio and Quinn.

Quinn, who has recently proposed opening five new technology/science schools for girls, has, through the Council, expanded pre-K by 10,000 seats and made kindergarten mandatory.

De Blasio wants to create universal pre-k, create after school programs for middle schoolers and also supports the expansion of tech education.

“I’m not sure how they’re going to deliver though so I want to do more research and I haven’t had a chance to do that yet,” said Clever. “I have a son in school so school (is the issue) for me.”

Clever’s friend Jacqueline Farmer said she was also considering de Blasio or Quinn, and that she too has school aged kids, 10 and 18.

“So that’s big for me,” said Farmer, also a full-time student herself at CUNY Hunter, studying English and political science. Farmer said she likes that De Blasio wants to put more money into CUNY (financed by taking tax subsidies away from big companies). She also likes the candidate because of his interracial marriage and family. “I’m mixed and I think he would be understanding about minorities,” she said.

However, Farmer is also still leaning towards Quinn, because, “I’m a part-time feminist and I like that she’s a woman and she exposes her flaws. She doesn’t hide anything.”

Married couple Aaron and Dorothy Wilkinson said they were die-hard voters and voted whenever they could in a primary, being republicans. Both said they thought Bloomberg had done a good job but didn’t seem to have anything to say about the Republicans currently on the ballot.

“I’ll probably go for the one the Times endorsed, but I don’t remember his name,” Aaron, an engineer, admitted.

Dorothy, a retired teacher who taught at School “47”, agreed, saying she and Aaron always vote the same way. (For reference, the Times endorsed former MTA head Joe Lhota for the Republican side.)

Aaron also indicated he doesn’t care for de Blasio, due to his plan to fund pre-k seats by taxing the wealthy.

“He says he’s going to tax the rich, but he doesn’t define rich,” Aaron said, adding, “You betcha” when asked if he was concerned personally about a possible tax hike. (Reports have said this would mean New Yorkers earning over $500,000.)

Karl Guerie, a photographer who also does administrative work at the V.A. Medical Center, said, “I’m still debating.

“To be honest no one really stands out for me, so that’s why I’ll be waiting until the last minute to decide,” he said. “There’s nothing fresh, nothing new. There are different things they’re talking about but not enough to define the individuals. One person may be talking about stop-and-frisk. Someone else will say where they stand on housing. I believe it should be a complete package, but if that’s what you want, you may not end up voting at all. Sometimes it’s the lesser of the evils.”

Guerie added he will try to consider the city’s population at large when choosing. “When people say, ‘Who’s good for me?,’ it makes things difficult. I’d like to believe it’s bigger than me, the individual. Because what happens to all the people whose voices aren’t heard?”

Helen Sanders, a retiree and mom to former Assembly Member Steven Sanders, a Democrat who represented Peter Cooper and Stuyvesant Town for 28 years, said she too doesn’t know yet who she’ll be voting for.

“Right now no, I’m still deciding,” she said, adding that her son, now a lobbyist in Albany, doesn’t try to nudge her towards one candidate or another. But she said she will be voting. “Oh yes,” said Sanders. “I always vote.”

 

 

 

Our choices: Lhota for mayor, Lappin for boro prez, Mendez for Council

With the primary just days away, the residents of Peter Cooper Village (always a strong voter base) have remained unsure about who it is they want to make their next mayor. And based on the very cluttered ballot, we can’t say we blame them.

Republican candidate Joe Lhota

Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota

In the last issue of Town & Village, we made an endorsement for the candidate on the Democrat side, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, because we believe he is genuinely interested in fighting for the preservation of the middle class and the rights of renters in this city. However, finding a Republican candidate with similar interests has proven to be a wee bit tougher. Last week, Town & Village reached out to the three Republican mayoral hopefuls to ask for their thoughts on how they would help middle class New Yorkers, including tenants, which we hoped to share with readers here. But unfortunately, none of the candidates responded to the question. Not one.

So what we did here was pick a candidate that we believe wouldn’t have a hands-off approach to matters like tenant rights and housing costs. It is after all that way of thinking that allowed a culture of predatory equity to go unchecked and result in real estate disasters like the Stuy Town sale to Tishman Speyer and the frivolous primary residence challenges of tenants and eventually, the default that followed.

Of the three Republican candidates, we think former MTA head Joe Lhota has the most potential to tackle the housing crisis New Yorkers now face. Though he isn’t committed to building or preserving a particular number of units of affordable housing as a few of the Democratic candidates are, he has acknowledged the need for more housing and for the government to step in to make it a reality.
In June, at a candidate forum held by CUNY covered by Town & Village, Lhota said,  “The city government should give tax incentives for housing. We have a million more people; where are we going to house them? Where is the property? We need to renovate existing housing and bring more onto the system. We need to evaluate property that’s not being used. Post offices aren’t as needed as they used to be. The government should grab them and use them through a building incentive program.”

Lhota is also an old hand at the workings of city government, having been the city’s budget director in Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s first term and deputy mayor for operations during the second term. Education is another important issue to him; he’s said he’s not in favor of a system that punishes teachers (as educators believe Bloomberg does in failing schools) and he has promised not to be “anti-teacher.”

Though we were somewhat tempted to go with Lhota’s Republican rival George McDonald, here’s why we didn’t. McDonald, founder of the Doe Fund, believes that everyone who “wants a job should have one.” This sounds great, but in order to make this a real positive for New York, there needs to be a clear plan that provides for the creation of jobs at all income levels, not just low income jobs that would be an improvement for the people the Doe Fund helps, who were at one point homeless or incarcerated. The idea is for those who work in the city to be able to pay rent or a mortgage there, too. To be fair, no one else has come up with a way to create jobs at all levels, but… we’re still not even sure what else McDonald’s campaign is about. Billionaire Gristedes chain owner John Catsimatidis has also not shown his platform to be a unique one, beyond an admittedly worthy goal of trying to reduce fines and other nuisances for small business owners.

So, though we disagree strongly with his position on kittens, for the Republican side, we endorse Joe Lhota.

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Reminder: Tenants Association hosting mayoral forum tonight

May30 signThe major candidates for mayor have accepted the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association’s invitation to be part of a forum on the evening of June 26th at Simon Baruch IS 104, East 20th between First and Second Avenues. The audience will have an opportunity to learn first hand the candidates’ positions on a variety of issues, not the least of which is the matter of affordable housing.
All of the major mayoral candidates were invited and those who confirmed were Sal Albanese, Adolfo Carrion, John Catsimitidis, Bill de Blasio, Joe Lhota, John Liu, Christine Quinn, Bill Thopmson and Anthony Weiner.
The four candidates for public advocate were also invited to the event. The public advocate candidates are: Cathy Guerrero, Letitia James, Reshma Saujani and Daniel Squadron.
The meeting will be held from 7-9 pm. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 6 p.m