Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Speak out on the A/C Fiasco

Nearly 600,000 New Yorkers now face months of transit hardship because of Sunday’s fire on the A/C subway line--a lifeline for Upper Manhattan and many other communities. And the incident raises serious safety concerns if even after the MTA spent $600 million in post-9/11 security upgrades a homeless person could cause this much havoc. What kind of damage could a person with actual malicious intent do? The equipment destroyed in Sunday’s fire was vintage 1930s technology, which reflects the MTAs long-time underinvestment in behind-the-scenes infrastructure and leaves us particularly vulnerable to such major disruptions.

It’s hard to take seriously the MTA’s latest statements that 6 to 9 months are needed to fully restore service on the A/C. Is it funding constraints which would keep the work from being done faster? Then the MTA should finally look to trim its bloated bureaucracy, which recently was cited by the state comptroller for a variety of excesses, including a 444-person public relations department. And the agency might also save a buck or two on the renovation of its administrative headquarters at 2 Broadway, a boondoggle of a project which is now $300 million over budget and which, according to federal prosecutors, has been run by a man with longstanding ties to not one but two mafia families.

Mayor Bloomberg’s voice has been conspicuously absent on the A/C service disruptions. When he finally spoke to reporters on the topic yesterday he decline to make any specific statements because he “had not been fully briefed on the details.” (And this was a full 48-hours after the incident!) Though the mayor does not directly control the MTA, he appoints several of its board members and is in a position to exert considerable influence.

Our community has come together to stand up to the MTA on many issues in recent years, and this public pressure has often forced the agency to grant concessions--most recently with the elimination of the skip-stop service on the 1/9 line. We need to stand up and do the same now, demanding that the MTA take every measure possible to quickly restore service on the A/C, and to prevent such fiascos from occurring again in the future.

Our local elected officials, along with Community Board 12, are working to coordinate a response to this crisis. In the meantime we need to let those in charge of the MTA know that our community demands swift action. Together I know we can have an impact


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