On Day of Controversial Loan Vote, NYS Quietly Sends Notice of Sewer/Water Projects That Will Go Unfunded

The Islip LIRR station parking lot during heavy rainfall on August 13. | Photo: MTA

The Islip LIRR station parking lot during heavy rainfall on August 13. | Photo: MTA

One doesn’t have to look far to find New York State sewer and water projects that need funding. Just this past weekend, Newsday published an article about a denial of funding for the Bay Park Sewage Plant, a plant that suffered major damage from Superstorm Sandy,which could be eligible for Clean Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF)—the same pot of money that was just tapped to help pay for the New NY Bridge. Mount Vernon is actually paying fines because they can’t find the money to meet their statutory requirements to clean up effluent leaks. Earlier this month Ossining suffered a water main break that led to a several day-long boil order for a central section of the village. Just yesterday Long Island saw an entire year of rainfall in one day, causing massive flooding and drawing attention to water infrastructure vulnerabilities. And on the day that Senator DeFrancisco voted in favor of the controversial Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) loan, his hometown of Syracuse suffered from a water main break downtown.

The same day of that vote, July 16, the EFC—without any press release or fanfare— quietly posted “Draft Amendment No. 2” for the 2014 Intended Use Plan for the CWSRF which outlined $570 million worth of sewer and water projects that would go unfunded across the state because the demand “exceeded the available funding.” In New York City alone, $270 million worth of projects were applied for; a need that will continue to go unmet. Other municipalities across the state that applied for money, but were below the funding line, include:

  • Town of Rosendale
  • Village of Greenport
  • Village of Ocean Beach
  • Kiryas Joel
  • Rockland County
  • Westchester County
  • Town of North Hempstead
  • Town of Oyster Bay
  • Suffolk County
  • Great Neck Water Pollution Control District

In general, municipalities not getting the funds they applied for—no matter what the pot of money—is not generally news in this era of substantially constrained funding. But when it is repeatedly stated, most recently in the Thruway Authority’s August 5 Factsheet, that these CWSRF loans to help construct the New NY Bridge “will have no impact on water projects in Federal Fiscal Year 2014”, it becomes one more flagrant example of how the public is being misled.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy | Photo: Lindsay Perry of the Stamford Advocate

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy | Photo: Lindsay Perry of the Stamford Advocate

WINNERS

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy - The Connecticut senator is proposing new methods for funding rail infrastructure.

MTA and New York City Department of Transportation - The two agencies teamed up to improve way-finding in the city’s subways with the creation and installation of new unique maps detailing the area surrounding each subway station.

Fair Haven Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli -  The first county in the state to adopt a Complete Streets policy is now on the way to becoming the first county in the state to create a county-wide bike lane network.

New Haven Board of Alders - The Board unanimously accepted a $760,000 grant, which will allow the City to conduct a two-year study to investigate means of improving transit options for residents and visitors.

Keegan Stephan - Upon learning of a two-week bicycle safety crackdown by the NYPD, the respected bike advocate responded, in a brilliant piece of guerrilla advocacy, by catching not one, not two, but 32 vehicles - including NYPD-owned vehicles - blocking bike lanes on his way to work today.

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New Report Finds Older Tri-State Pedestrians at Risk

The pedestrian fatality rate for tri-state area residents 60 and older is 2.5 times higher than that of residents under 60. | credit

The fatality rate for pedestrians 60 and older in the tri-state region is 2.5 times higher than that of residents under 60. | photo credit

Tri-state region pedestrians aged 60 years and older are disproportionately at risk of being killed in collisions with vehicles while walking, according to a new study by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

From 2003 through 2012, 1,492 pedestrians aged 60 years and older were killed on Connecticut, New Jersey and downstate New York roads, according to Older Pedestrians at Risk: A Ten Year Survey and Look Aheadreleased today. The report found that:

  • Those 60 and older comprised only 18 percent of the region’s population, but accounted for 35 percent of pedestrian fatalities during the 10-year period
  • Those aged 75 years and older represent 6 percent of the tri-state region’s population, but 16.5 percent of pedestrian deaths.
  • The pedestrian fatality rate for the region’s residents 60 and older is 2.5 times higher than that of residents under 60.
  • For residents 75 and older, the pedestrian fatality rate is more than three times that of those under 60.

Tri-State Average Pedestrian Fatality Rate by Age Group (2003-2012)

Source: TSTC analysis of the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System Encyclopedia, 2003-2012, U.S. Census Bureau Population Estimates and 2010 Census. U.S. fatality rates include tri-state region.

According to AARP, decreased bone density exacerbates injuries sustained by seniors. Coupled with mobility issues that hinder their ability to cross a road quickly, this age group is particularly prone to critical injuries from car collisions. However, simple roadway improvements – clearly marked crosswalks, longer crossing signals and wider pedestrian islands – make walking safer and easier for older residents and younger residents alike.

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Why Does the Metropolitan Region Only Get Dedicated Bus Lanes for Disasters and Special Events?

There’s talk of bringing the 2016 Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn, and to make sure delegates can get between Manhattan hotels and the Barclay’s Center, City officials are planning for an exclusive bus lane on the Manhattan Bridge.

This wouldn’t be the first time exclusive lanes for buses were used during a special event. Back in February, to accommodate Super Bowl ticket holders traveling from hotels in Manhattan to MetLife Stadium, officials arranged for a westbound Exclusive Bus Lane (XBL) in the Lincoln Tunnel — something Tri-State has said should be made permanent for the benefit of 225,000 daily trans-Hudson bus commuters (it wasn’t).

Before that, the only other time in recent memory when buses got exclusive access to a New York City river crossing was when dedicated bus lanes were established on the Manhattan Bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

While these interventions were both necessary and useful, it’s not as if people only take buses across the Hudson and East Rivers during disasters and major events; it happens every day. About 1.5 million people commute into Manhattan each day, 55 percent of whom take transit. Hundreds of thousands arrive on buses, many via the Lincoln Tunnel XBL, the only dedicated bus lane connecting to Manhattan. But it only operates during the a.m. rush — even though just about as many people leave Manhattan to head back to New Jersey in the evenings.

So the question for the region’s leaders? When will tri-state residents get the same transit priority treatment as the visitors to our region?

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How Will New York’s Proposed Casinos Impact the Transportation System?

An artist's rendering of Sterling Forest Resort, a proposed resort casino in Tuxedo, NY. | Image:  sterlingforestresort.com

An artist’s rendering of Sterling Forest Resort, a proposed resort casino in Tuxedo, NY. | Image: sterlingforestresort.com

“I believe casinos in upstate New York could be a great magnet to bring the New York City traffic up.”

Governor Cuomo’s declaration in this year’s State of the State address would seem to suggest that upstate casinos would be built in transit-accessible locations. Less than half of New York City households own a vehicle, so “to bring the New York City traffic up” to casinos beyond the limits of Metro-North would ostensibly require some investments in transit.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t look to be part of the plan. Too often, transit access, congestion and wear-and-tear  on our roads are barely mentioned amidst the tax revenue ideology that accompanies economic development ventures. We’ve seen it before in New York, whether it’s the Governor’s effort to approve fracking, or the effort to lure New York City residents up to the Adirondacks (where there is no other option but to drive).

The June 30 deadline for casino applications brought 17 applicants vying for just four destination casino licenses in three upstate regions—the Catskills/Hudson Valley region, Eastern Southern Tier, and Capital Region. The final decision is expected to be made by the Gaming Facility Location Board, an appointed board with Cuomo-friendly appointees by the fall with casinos potentially opening as soon as 2015.

Some of the proposals submitted tout their proximity to public transit, while others propose significant expansions of the roadway system to bring customers directly to their door. Genting Americas is proposing a new Thruway Exit for a casino in Tuxedo, and Caesars Entertainment is offering to invest at least $20 million to improve traffic in the already burdened area near the proposed resort for Woodbury, “including funding a substantial portion of the long-delayed improvements to Exit 131 on the New York State Thruway.”

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Port Authority Bus Terminal “Commuter Chat” Event Tomorrow

panynj pabt commuter chatLast Friday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey “announced” via social media that it would be holding a “Commuter Chat” session for feedback about the Port Authority Bus Terminal on August 12.  Tomorrow’s session is part of the recently-announced “Quality of Commute” Improvement Program for the failing bus terminal, which according to the Committee on Capital Planning, Execution and Asset Management is  “physically and operationally obsolete, operates beyond its capacity, lacks adequate bus staging/storage capacity, and is nearing the end of its useful life.” Considering that this bleak description has been enthusiastically verified by others (John Oliver declared it to be “The Single Worst Place on Earth“) one might think the agency would be making a more concerted effort to spread the word about the $90 million “Quality of Commute” Improvement Program.

However, this “announcement” appears to have only been made via the PANYNJ Facebook page and the PANYNJ Twitter feed, both of which are used primarily for service interruption announcements—any commuter can tell you that there can be dozens of these announcements in a day; so far today there have already been nearly 40 announcements posted to the agency’s Facebook, effectively burying any trace of Friday’s announcement—as well as via the rarely-used, barely acknowledged PABT Twitter feed, which has just one percent of the followers that the PANYNJ Twitter feed has. For anyone who doesn’t use Twitter regularly, news of this feedback session would be especially hard to find. As there is no calendar on the PANYNJ website, it appears the only other mention of tomorrow’s feedback session is in a report from the Committee on Capital Planning, Execution and Asset Management to the agency’s Board of Directors on July 23.

This same report notes that “enhanced communications” was mentioned in previously received customer feedback. If reliance on sparse and sporadic social media posts is the agency’s idea of “enhanced communications”, they are going to need all of the customer feedback from these “Commuter Chats” they can get.

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Governor Cuomo Signs Historic 25 MPH Speed Limit Bill

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the 25 mph Vision Zero bill at the Javits Center in Manhattan Saturday. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill at the Javits Center in Manhattan Saturday. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

This morning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an historic piece of legislation: a bill that gives New York City the authority to lower its default speed limit from 30 miles per hour, to 25 miles per hour. Statement from TSTC Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool below:

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Pick Your Number: NYS Thruway’s Milstein Inflates Savings from Controversial Loan by 350%

Photo: Crain's New York

New York State Thruway Authority Chairman Howard Milstein | Photo: Crain’s New York

On Wednesday, despite widespread objection from advocacy groupseditorial boardslegislators and the regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the New York State Thruway Authority (NYSTA) unanimously voted in favor of a $256 million loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to help finance New NY Bridge projects.

During the board meeting,  NYSTA chairman Howard Milstein stated that the savings on this loan will be substantially higher than what was claimed leading up to the July 16 Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) meeting: “By saving us $35 million in financing costs, the loan will be helping us to keep future tolls as low as possible,” said Howard Milstein, the authority’s chairman.

In a document released by the Thruway Authority after the PACB vote, savings on the full $511 million loan are stated to be $17 million. Accordingly, on the no-interest $256 million loan approved yesterday, savings would be $10 million. The 350 percent inflation of savings that Milstein is claiming is inexplicable.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

Lisa & Jacqueline Sheriff | Photo: Carmine Galasso, The Record Staff Photographer

Lisa & Jacqueline Sheriff | Photo: Carmine Galasso, The Record Staff Photographer

WINNERS

Branford, CT - Branford is adding a second platform to the town’s Shore Line East station to allow for more frequent trains.

Lisa & Jacqueline Sheriff of Waldwick, NJ - The mother-daughter team are hoping to increase traffic safety on local roadways not just by encouraging slower speeds, but by protecting traffic enforcement personnel as well.

Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation – The Dodge Foundation is supporting “creative placemaking” efforts in communities throughout New Jersey, which not only helps these communities to grow and thrive by inspiring innovation and expression, but also by catalyzing economic growth in distressed neighborhoods.

Perth, Australia rail commuters - Dozens of riders worked together to tilt a commuter train in order to free a rider trapped between the platform and train.
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A Renewed Focus on Downtown Stamford’s Streets

Mixed-use development in downtown Stamford with street-level commercial space is an essential element of an attractive, walkable downtown, but Washington Boulevard -- seven lanes wide here -- is designed for vehicular throughput. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Mixed-use development in downtown Stamford with street-level commercial space is an essential element of an attractive, walkable downtown, but Washington Boulevard — a wide, multi-lane arterial — is designed to maximize vehicular throughput. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Stamford is one of the fastest-growing cities in Connecticut, and a big part of that growth has been concentrated in mixed-use, multi-family developments built in and around downtown Stamford in the last decade.

Along with new residents, downtown Stamford has also attracted jobs. Unlike many stops along the Metro North New Haven Line, Stamford is not a bedroom community, but “an edge city with corporate and media spillover from New York”  that draws an ever-increasing share of reverse commuters to downtown job centers within walking distance of the McKinney Transportation Center.

But being within walking distance only takes you so far. Downtown Stamford is a short walk from the Transportation Center, but that doesn’t mean it’s a safe or attractive walk. Walking between the train station and major employment hubs like Landmark Center and office buildings along Tresser Boulevard requires passing under Interstate 95, crossing wide, multi-lane arterials, and walking along streets lined with blank walls and parking garages (more examples in photo gallery below).

With all the new mixed-use development happening downtown, it’s clear that Stamford has figured out the land use side of smart growth. What’s needed now is a renewed focus on downtown streets, especially in light of two recent pedestrian fatalities and the fact that Stamford has the highest per capita pedestrian crash rate in Fairfield County with 240 people struck by vehicles between 2010 and 2012. On Monday, Tri-State partnered with Stamford’s Downtown Special Services District to conduct a walking audit of the east-west Main Street corridor and identified plenty of streets and pedestrian crossings in need of improvements; future audits will focus on other areas downtown, including the streets around the Transportation Center.

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