Resist Trump, Support the 2020 Census

I don’t have “five seconds to end world hunger forever,” despite the pleas of those well-meaning kids on the sidewalk who ask me to sign whatever it is that they thrust at me. I have no interest in looking any better than I do now if it involves taking yet another sample packet from a young woman popping out the door of a skin care salon (the first three I took from her had no effect at all).
What I do have time for is the 2020 Census – talking about it now and cooperating next year when census takers come to my door or forms arrive in the mail.
Americans who are alarmed by the presidency of Donald J. Trump have fought him by marching in the streets, lobbying elected officials, and donating money to organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood. The census is a tool that is at least as impactful as any of these.
Allocation of seats to the House of Representatives continues to be the survey’s primary function. It is projected that some states, notably Texas, Florida, Colorado, and Oregon will gain after the 2020 census. Others, including New York, Illinois, Ohio, and West Virginia, will lose. Census data also affects how state and city legislative districts are drawn as well as boundaries for school boards.
The count also affects the allocation of federal funds, including those for education, hospitals, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. It shapes employment and planning because businesses, researchers and policymakers look to it for keys to the composition of Americans (location, age, race, etc.) in making strategic plans.
In fiscal 2015, 132 government programs used information from the census to allocate more than $675 billion, much of it for initiatives that serve lower-income families, including Head Start, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Pell grants for college, and reduced-price school lunch programs. Highway spending is also apportioned according to census data.
Fair enough, if the count is accurate. However, if people are too busy, indifferent, or frightened to be counted, the results will be inaccurate and therefore unjust. Given the crack-down on immigrants, legal and otherwise, the citizenship question is expected to frightened people away from cooperating with the census, leading to an undercount of minorities and a loss of influence in progressive-leaning states
There is no better argument for the importance of the census than that Trump is trying to skew it. On April 1, he tweeted that the 2020 census will be meaningless if it does not include a question about citizenship. Later this month the Supreme Court will consider whether the question can in fact be included. This after a U.S. district judge and two federal judges ruled that it could not.
Americans have allowed Mark Zuckerberg, the Russians, and all the hackers on the internet to have their valuable personal information. Why not share our data for an essential purpose? To learn what to do now and in the coming year to support the census, go to http://www.2020census.gov.                                                                                            Please leave your comments in the box below.

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Q is for Questionable

Patch.com offers a telling post on what has seemed to be an inexplicable lack of arrival clocks on the Q line  but that is getting sorted. In the last week, Q trains have skipped the 72nd Street station; one train was stuck at 72nd Street on Sunday morning, effectively shutting down service until the MTA somehow got it moving; and erratic morning rush hour service caused such delays that the over-crowded platform became a safety hazard. The booth clerk announced she was dispensing vouchers so people could find other routes because the platform had to be cleared. (So don’t blame the trains, blame the platforms).

Two years in, the new two-mile, $4.45 billion Q is now fully integrated with the rest of the incompetence-plagued network. Like the rest of the system, it is great when it works.The next phase of the Second Avenue Subway is projected to cost $6 billion.

But let’s end on a high note – the 72nd Street Q station actually has a booth clerk. Did someone anticipate that there would be trouble?

Please post your thoughts in the comments box.

Damning the Amazon

Hamilton Nolan writes a great column in today’s Guardian. He says that if Amazon want to plop one of its headquarters in New York City it should pay to house our  63,000 homeless people. He also offers some great insights and context. Read it here.

Please comment on his Guardian site or below. Have a nice day!

 

Upgrade Subway Signals — Phase Out Phase II

This week’s Voice presents an excellent article by Aaron Gordon.

It says all that needs to be said. Here it is:

Maybe We Didn’t Need the Second Avenue Subway After All
The latest ridership numbers show that the MTA spent more than $300,000 for each new daily straphanger attracted by Cuomo’s much-heralded Upper East Side line

By Aaron Gordon July 18, 2018

All eyes were on Governor Cuomo when he celebrated the opening of the Second Avenue Subway in December 2016. Dennis Van Tine/AP Images
When the calendar flipped from 2016 to 2017, Governor Cuomo rode the subway. As you may recall, this was no ordinary subway trip: It was the inaugural run of the Q along its new route, down from the 96th Street terminus of the shiny, new Second Avenue Subway. You know, a ribbon cutting. Our governor loves ribbon cuttings.

With last week’s release of station-by-station ridership figures for 2017, we can finally learn the impact this long-awaited subway extension had on the system. As it turns out, the Second Avenue Subway is undoubtedly a benefit, but at $4.5 billion for just the three stations built so far, a very expensive one. And the stats also tell us much more about the problem the line was built to solve — and raise the question of whether that $4.5 billion would have been better spent elsewhere.

The Second Avenue Subway’s primary reason for existence was to lighten the load on the overburdened 4/5/6 Lexington Avenue line, the busiest subway corridor in North America after the Second and Third Avenue Els were torn down mid-century. This was a worthy goal, and to some degree, the new line accomplished this: The five Lexington Avenue stops closest to the subway extension — 96th Street, 86th Street, 77th Street, 68th Street–Hunter College, and Lexington Avenue–59th Street — saw 17,377,828 fewer swipes into those stations last year, or about 47,600 per day.

Meanwhile, the three new Second Avenue Subway stations experienced almost 21.7 million trips last year, or just a hair shy of 60,000 per day. After factoring in large ridership changes at other nearby stations — the Lexington Avenue–63th Street F/Q station saw a 1.3 million bump in trips, while the Fifth Avenue–59th Street N/R/W had 560,000 fewer — the total change in ridership after the Second Avenue line opened nets out to just a hair more than 5 million additional subway riders in 2017, or about 14,000 per day.

This is greater than officials projected in terms of ridership gained: MTA planners didn’t expect much new ridership from the Second Avenue Subway, knowing that it’s only two blocks from an existing subway. But in the grand scheme of New York City transit, it’s a pretty low number; it’s about the same number of riders who take the B36 bus between Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay each day.

But since construction began on the Second Avenue Subway in 2009, the subway’s performance has steadily declined to the point where it is now in crisis. The Second Avenue Subway’s opening was a short-lived respite of good news from the otherwise constant barrage of nightmarish headlines. State of Emergency, Subway Action Plan, declining performance, you know the rest.

At best, the Second Avenue Subway is the lone bright spot in an otherwise concerning trend of declining public transit ridership. Even with the increase in ridership on the Upper East Side thanks to the Second Avenue Subway, Manhattan still lost 10,821,930 subway trips last year. This ridership drop is almost certainly due to the increasingly poor service, which itself is a result of maintenance backlogs, antiquated technologies, and questionable management decisions.

As I have previously reported, while tunnel-boring machines were grinding their way underneath Second Avenue to relieve the 4/5/6, the MTA was installing unnecessary signal timers on the Lexington line that ended up reducing its capacity. The New York Times later found that in June and July of last year, during the average weekday rush hour window, 57 scheduled trains on the 4/5/6 simply do not run. Those ghost trains alone could have fit the number of riders who switched to taking the Second Avenue Subway.

Indeed, at the time the MTA was justifying the Second Avenue Subway, one of the key words involved was “overcrowding” — as in, crowding on the 4/5/6 was causing delays, and the only feasible way to address that was to build the Second Avenue line. This was the prevailing logic in 2009, and even for much of 2017 after the Second Avenue Subway was completed. Yet the new transit chief, Andy Byford, has since declared overcrowding is not, and never has been, the root cause of delays. Overcrowding is the result of delays, not the cause.

We know now that the Second Avenue Subway could not possibly have been the most cost-effective way to relieve crowding on the Lexington Avenue line. That would be upgrading the signals to Communications-Based Train Control, or CBTC. One of the first lines Byford wants to tackle is, in fact, the 4/5/6 from 149th Street–Grand Concourse in the Bronx to Nevins Street in Brooklyn. Doing so would allow the MTA to run trains much more efficiently, increase capacity, and turn those ghost trains into real trains.

This project alone would provide a benefit to Lexington Avenue line orders of magnitude greater than the Second Avenue Subway for a fraction of the cost. (Re-signaling the Queens Boulevard line from Kew Gardens–Union Turnpike to 50th Street is expected to cost $425 million; the Eighth Avenue line from 59th Street to High Street has a preliminary estimate of $375 million.) But the main holdup for Byford’s plan is he needs the money. Oh, if only he could have, say, $4.5 billion available, enough to upgrade most of the subway system to CBTC.

Most transit experts will tell you that thanks to decades of apathy the subway needs to build extensions and rapidly upgrade its existing infrastructure. No disagreement here; the best version of New York City is one where we can do both. But, as the last several decades and Byford’s ongoing efforts to secure funding illustrate, that isn’t the New York we have. Instead, the MTA is working on scraping together $6 billion for Phase II of the Second Avenue Subway, which will take it up to 125th Street — at that price tag, the MTA could almost certainly re-signal the entire subway system. The question isn’t why the Upper East Side can’t have nice things, but why, with so many dire, urgent needs across the system, the Upper East Side should be disproportionate benefactors.

In any case, the Second Avenue Subway extension has now been built, so we must do our best to enjoy it. The people who used to have a fifteen-minute walk to the subway but now have a mere ten-minute walk must savor those precious moments. The straphangers still taking the 4/5/6 ought to bask in the extra space they now have. Take an extra second to enjoy the world-class art in the new stations. Somebody has to, because Governor Cuomo won’t. He hasn’t ridden the subway since. After all, there haven’t been any ribbon cuttings.

For Want of An Apron

The other day as I was scrubbing paint brushes at the sink, a fellow art student of a certain age told me that she had never learned to be neat. She blamed it on not having attended kindergarten. That omission, she said, affected her son. Decades ago he took an admission test to a significant pre-school in Manhattan. A perfect score was obligatory, but he missed one word. The one he had missed was so simple that his failure indicated a developmental problem, so they called his mother in. They said he was the only student they had ever encountered who had no concept of the word “apron.” She explained his ignorance – there was no such item in the home – and the boy was registered.
“If they had asked him about Doric columns, he would have done fine,” she said. “I think of that every time I hear that minority students do poorly on entrance tests. Maybe, like my son, those kids don’t have all the same reference points as the schools.”

Please leave a comment in the box below.

Must-reading on NYC’s subways…

Kudos to the N.Y. Times for its investigation into how the city’s subway system became the dangerous disaster it is today. With so many examples to choose from, the reporters omitted my favorite horrific Metropolitan Transit Authority blunder – the $530 million “renovation” of the South Ferry station that opened in 2009 and was knocked out of service  by Hurricane Sandy three years later as a storm surge poured through its entrances and crippled the entire system. It turns out that those who designed and approved the upgrade early in the 21st century forgot that the South Ferry station was next to New York Harbor. The MTA team neglected to engineer safeguards against rising sea levels and inevitable storm surges.

Not to worry about missing that one — read about how Governor Andrew Cuomo forced the MTA to used $5 million of its budget to prop up three upstate state-run ski resorts that were adversely impacted by a warm winter.

Readers can pick their own favorite blunders from the newspaper’s fine reporting here.

Please comment in the box below.

 

Williamsburg Tickets Cyclists!

More cyclists than commercial truck drivers in North Brooklyn are receiving tickets, according to NYPD data. As Gwynn Hogan reports in DNA Info,  between January and the end of September, cyclists in Williamsburg were ticketed 1,160 times for violations like running red lights and riding the wrong way on a one-way street. This is compared to 463 tickets written to commercial trucks for violations like texting while driving or not wearing seatbelt. I think we are supposed to be appalled that law enforcement is harder on cyclists than commercial truck drivers, but I am glad that bikes are getting some attention. If cyclists want to break laws with impunity, they should pedal over to Manhattan. It seems to me that their luck is better there.

Please comment in the space below.

Cruising the Hamptons Film Festival

The films Zoglin reviews will be coming to the city soon.

Richard Zoglin

I just finished a busy weekend of filmgoing at the Hamptons International Film Festival. This annual Hamptons ritual — which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year— has always struck me as a bit of a superfluous stop on the film-festival circuit.  It overlaps with the higher-profile New York Film Festival, just a hundred miles to the west, and most of its big films are second helpings from more prominent festivals in Toronto, Cannes and elsewhere. Still, the festival always brings in a lot of interesting little films looking for attention (especially foreign ones and documentaries), draws an enthusiastic crowd of non-cineastes to its packed screenings, and is increasingly regarded by the film studios as a good place to generate buzz for their big fall releases. Nearly all the major Oscar nominees from last year were previewed at the Hamptons festival — including Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea and La La…

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The Cycling Wheels of Justice

Three years ago, on September 21, 2014 Jill Tarlov died of injuries she sustained when Jason W. Marshall cycled into her in Central Park on West Drive and 63rd Street. Since unlike most cyclists who hit pedestrians, he remained at the scene, we know Marshall’s name and that on the Strava website for athletes he had frequently boasted of breaking speed limits.

A police spokeswoman says that charges were never filed in the case. I must accept that means that Marshall acted in a totally lawful manner. Nonetheless, as a New Yorker who has been hit by one bike rider and grazed by a few others, I was dumbstruck when I read that an irresponsible cyclist in England who killed a mother of two has been sentenced to eighteen months in jail.  When has that ever happened here?

At the time, it seemed that the Tarlov tragedy would finally highlight the issue of pedestrian safety in a city where daily cycling grew 350 % between 1990 and 2015, before Citi Bike began a major expansion.

The public discussion never happened, although average New Yorkers grumble about it all the time. What do you think? Please click the reply box below.

N.Y.Times to New York: Drop Dead!

Amazon plans to build a second headquarters for itself that will house 50,000 employees. New York City wants it and will make a bid. Don’t count on the N.Y. Times to be of help. “Stay away from her, Amazon!” says the paper. Its Upshot column (which served the nation so well during the 2016 presidential campaign) decided to do free consulting for the retail behemoth, ran some numbers, and insists that the complex should go to Denver. Upshot put the calabash on New York City because of its high housing costs and the balance between those and amenities, like “cultural edginess.” Separately, Times columnist David Leonhardt quickly urged Amazon to stay away from the country’s coasts, which would also mean New York City.

Thank you, N.Y Times. Isn’t is all such fun to theorize? Thank you for helping the people of our five boroughs and greater area. I guess we could say the paper can’t be bought, although it could show Amazon something about getting financial incentives from struggling cities. It received $79 million and more in tax breaks  from Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg after it threatened to move jobs and facilities out of the city.
The Altoona Times? Maybe if it had moved to one of those places it prefers it would have done a more balanced and accurate job of covering Trump v. Clinton and it readers would have experienced less disinformation in 2016. But I am sure Amazon can trust it on Denver. Please comment in the box below.