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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Photo Wednesday 12/30/09: Snow more fun Edition

On the edge of tomorrow.... soooo many things to report for this Photo Wednesday new businesses opening in the otherwise cold winter....bus service being painfully cut throughout the city, (riders of the B48, B7, B45 this means you) the Vanderbilt/Atlantic Yards monster being animated by our "blood"(tax dollars) and "steroids"(dubious investment sources) and more including Snowboarding?!?

BLKOPS-122009-loRes from jsjcreative on Vimeo.

Brownstoner's "Closing Bell" yesterday had a post and the above short video featuring Brooklyn snowboarders taking to the hills of Fort Greene Park, having fun and teaching the youth, until the Parks staff show. It's a cool idea and steps over a lot of misconceptions about what urban people, youth in particular would be into. Why not have more winter activities and mentor-ship utilizing the city parks?

2009 coming to an end, who besides people who became parents, married or hired are really sorry to see this year go. I don't have a decade wrap to add either. My eyes are faced front, my hears though take consul from the past.

Be safe out there and have a happy new year's celebration!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Photo Wednesday 12/16/09: Breaking News edition: Atlantic Station opens tomorrow next week

It's been announced that the 8 years in the making hollow space that is the entrance to the Atlantic Avenue LIRR/Subway station is opening tomorrow next week. Here's some pics of what awaits ye:

Atlantic Station Interiors, Almost Finished 12/12 15

Seriously it took 8 years to make a hollow building and two staircases?!? It's as underwhelming as the mall it's connected to. Does anyone really expect the Ratner Stadium planned across the street is going to be any better than this?

Here's some more to see as we ponder how many years, tax payer dollars and poor planning will go into the proposed Atlantic Yards stadium, which by the way the billionaire developer (Ratner) has made a half billion on but hasn't paid to the service cutting poverty claiming M.T.A.

Oh !$#? Bring on the Q*Bert.

PhotoWednesday 12/16/09 : "Pay Your Fair!" Edition

The M.T.A. is having math problems, you know the kind where things don't add up. If they have their way, thousands of school kids will be in the same position.

The New York Times reports an M.T.A. $400 Million budget shortfall this year. This after they supposedly avoided "doomsday" earlier this year thanks to action from the State.

To deal with this latest revenue crisis, the M.T.A. has decided to take subsidized Metrocards from NYC school children. This supposedly will save $140 million annually.

And here's where the math gets really ridiculous, you'd think taking away school students way of getting to class would be the type of last resort that comes after all other options have been tried and failed. But nope there's at least $90 million the M.T.A. is owed that for some reason they're not even trying to collect on.

The proposed Atlantic Yards proposal is meant to be built on M.T.A. land. That land has essentially been given to developer Bruce Ratner's company for $10 million instead of the $100 he was supposed to pay for it. (the $10 million is one of several payments he will be allowed to make well into the next decade).

Photo Fieldtrip to proposed Atlantic Yards site
(above right: Land claimed by Forest City Ratner for the Atlantic Yards Project )

And the $100 million is less than the appraised value of the land which is around $200 Million.
Photo Fieldtrip to Atlantic Yards
(above: several buildings have already been demolished for the Atlantic Yards Project, like the lot above where the old Ward Bakery was demolished. Yet the M.T.A. hasn't been paid for it's land)

 My question, to all who support the Atlantic Yards plan as a benefit for New Yorkers, if you want a stadium on M.T.A. land (which personally I am against) fine, how about actually paying for it?
Photo Fieldtrip to Atlantic Yards
(above: The MTA Vanderbilt Rail Yards, proposed site of Atlantic Yards, has been reduced with permission of the M.T.A. so less trains are able to use the yard, the reduction benefits Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards and Nets Basketball Stadium, but the M.T.A. hasn't collected full payment)

 For that matter as City Council Member Letitia James points out, why was an offer of $150 million given to the M.T.A. for development of the same land rejected? (see below)

Why hasn't the M.T.A. collected on the over $250 million fee for the renaming of the Atlantic Avenue Station?

If the M.T.A. needs money, has deals unpaid for, and the reason eminent domain was used (to give private land to Ratner for this project) because it will "benefit" New Yorkers, why isn't he being told to pay in full for M.T.A. land?

Atlantic Yards Protest
(above: An unanswered call to Governor Patterson for a "Time Out" on Atlantic Yards from last May)

Before the M.T.A. starts throwing kids under the buses and trains how about collecting Ratner's fare?


*The full release from Councilmember James is here

67 Hanson Place
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 260-9191
Press Release

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** December 15, 2009

Contact: Amyre Loomis at (718) 260-9191


(December 15, 2009) The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s latest doomsday budget cuts include a proposed cut of the student Metrocard program, which provides full and half fare Metrocards to over 550,000 students who commute to school each day. Also, numerous service cuts are proposed on routes where bus and train services are over-crowded, and waiting times are long. Lastly, severe layoffs and salary cuts within the MTA are proposed.

The MTA says these cuts will help alleviate a massive budget deficit and maintains that these proposed service cuts are for underused routes already serviced by other trains and/or buses. But, riders say they will be inconvenienced, especially because of the recent fare increase and reduction in service this year already. Some students have expressed expectations of having to choose between paying the Metrocard fare, or buying a meal for themselves. It is unacceptable that riders, specifically youth, who depend on the student Metrocard program for educational needs be subjected to unsafe walks, and/or possibly not being able to travel for classes at all.

An obvious questions for residents of Downtown Brooklyn then comes up - why is Forest City Ratner, the multi-million dollar developer of the Atlantic Yards project not paying upfront for what he has purchased from the MTA? If Bruce Ratner paid upfront what he owes to the MTA for use of the MTA’s Vanderbilt Yards, then the doomsday budget cuts could be significantly reduced.

“Cancel the sweetheart deal for Forest City Ratner,” said Council Member James. “Forest City Ratner should pay the $100 million owed now for the purchase of the Vanderbilt Yards. I also question why Forest City Ratner is not being made to pay the millions of dollars owed for the naming-rights deal upfront? And, had the MTA accepted a higher bidder, they would have received their funds upfront and their current budgetary gap could have been cut almost in half.”

The MTA’s deal with Forest City Ratner simply does not make sense. Many are questioning why the MTA, who is facing a potential budgetary gap of $615 million next year, and today faces a $343 million massive budgetary gap, is able to accept a $20 million payment towards a $100 million dollar property deal. This purchase and construction of the Atlantic Yards Development by Forest City Ratner was also given the option of spreading the balance of $80 million owed in payments over a 21 year period.

Community advocates suggest that another means of closing the budget gap would be for the MTA to do a new appraisal of the railyards valued at $271.5 million, and open up bids to other developers who would pay more of the cost upfront. Severe cutbacks in service, layoffs and especially cuts to the student Metrocard program appear unconscionable in light of the MTA’s business agreement with Forest City Ratner.

Critics and opponents of Atlantic Yards have continued to argue that rival developer Extell, who submitted a bid that offered $150 million in cash, was a far better plan. For unclear reasons, the MTA board negotiated solely with Forest City Ratner. Extell head Gary Barnett in a December 2007 interview with the Observer said he was shocked that he bid $150 million, and Forest City Chairman Bruce Ratner bid $50 million, yet Ratner was offered the deal.

“Something simply doesn’t sit right with the community about the preferential treatment that Forest City Chairman Bruce Ratner has received from the MTA. Now it appears as though MTA customers and specifically our youth - the future of the City - may pay dearly to support the project of a multi million dollar developer that the community doesn’t want to begin with,” said Council Member James.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

MTA: Slippery when everything

Jeez so the most heavily used (and only 24 hour) subway system in the world (ours) can't handle snow (ok) water (floods, sure) trash (track fires, sure, acceptable) and now add to that list colorfully brittle fallen leaves. yep leaves.

Today's New York Times reports that leaves are apparently staging an insurgent attack(my words) on rail steel causing trains to be slowed on select outdoor (below grade) subway lines like the Brooklyn Q, N, and Franklin Shuttle. This isn't as much of a problem for outdoor elevated lines like the Queens 7, Queens N and Queens J, (is somebody sticking it to Brooklyn?) because on those elevated the rain washes the resolute leaves away.

The article details the MTA's efforts to warn of delays and the average rider's understandably incredulous reactions. There's even a scientific breakdown of hot leaves become fatty acids which become waxy buildup on the rails, which some how requires a vacuums train to clean, although the cavity creeps fight crest squad might be a better way to go....

Interestingly what is not mentioned is why or how after 100+ years of service (and in my person 30+ years as a New Yorker) there seems to be no prior sign-age posted by the MTA about delays caused by fallen leaves. I'm pretty sure we've had autumn a few times before in the last 100+ years you'd think the problem woulda shown up before now.

Is it scientific? Are the new wheels of our mostly new subway fleet's extra stainless steelery causing them to get lubed up quicker? (let your minds glide on that) Or as some strap-hangers suggested is it the MTA looking for new and more creative excuses rather than newer and more creative savings methods?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

PhotoWednesday 12/9/09 : Rubber Tipped Edition

rubber tips2

Yup no xmas shots, outside seems more octobery to me, and in keeping with that, I offer tips. Rubber tips. I caught this on Washington Ave I think, I was trying not to alarm the owner. They were up on the Hill near Clinton. If you see a little flash of yellow today (I think they're rubber glove fingers) it's probably this little puddle jumper.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

PhotoWed! 12/02/09 : Borough of (Vanishing) Churches Edition

If memory serves there was a piece in the Ken Burns documentary "New York" that describes the rivalry between Brooklyn and Manhattan. In that segment, Brooklynites as far back as the 19th century would boast of the many classic houses of worship the borough had to offer, calling Brooklyn the "Borough of Churches" as a means of highlighting the greatness of the place. Bitter Manhattanites of the era were said to retort, that's cause "Brooklyn's a great place to die!"

Well these days it seems the churches are the ones that're fading.

Today's photo Wednesday comes from the Clinton Hill / Prospect Heights border where sits a church on Pacific between Vanderbilt and Underhill, that one of my aunts has warm and spooky stories about.

Church on Pacific St

There's more story than that but suffice to say it seems the church is coming down steeple by steeple if my photo shows true.

Anybody know more?