Included in the massive $286.4 billion transportation bill Congress passed last week are a few projects that will help Lower Manhattan: a few million for Governors Island and a bikeway connecting the Hudson and East River waterfronts, and $100 million for a rail freight tunnel connecting New Jersey with Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Huh? How could a Jersey-Brooklyn project help Downtown?
The tunnels number one champion, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, whose district includes Downtown and Brooklyn, says one of many benefits of the project is that it would drastically reduce the truck traffic in Lower Manhattan and other parts of the city. We agree. Traffic congestion is one of Downtowns most serious problems and any relief would be more than welcome.
The proposal is indeed costly estimates vary widely between $1.8 billion and $7.4 billion and it is possible it may not be worth doing compared to other transportation priorities.
Three years ago, we began calling on Gov. George Pataki to set clear transportation priorities and resolve the bureaucratic turf wars over transportation and federal, post- 9/11 dollars. There has been some movement since then, but sadly not enough. Pataki has 50 percent control of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which made it clear in a New York Times article Wednesday that it was not thrilled to get money for the freight tunnel. Mayor Bloomberg no longer supports the freight tunnel either.
The planning and designing money secured by Nadler could and should spark these transportation debates that have been delayed too long. Some of the other big ticket transportation items under discussion are the Second Ave. subway, a commuter rail connection between Penn and Grand Central Stations and one that would be funded mostly through 9/11-related money a Downtown rail link to J.F.K. Airport and the Long Island Rail Road.
We will not be able to do all of these projects. If the Downtown rail link ends up being killed, that money must be moved to a project that has unmistakable benefits for Lower Manhattan.
We should have been in a better position to decide these questions by now. Patakis lack of leadership can explain a good part of the uncertainty and before he gets too lost in dreams of Iowa, New Hampshire and the White House, we remind the governor that he has responsibilities in New York through the end of next year.
Noisy bar report
A new report by Councilmember Eva Moskowitz confirms that Downtown Manhattan is the noisiest place in the city in terms of loud bars, nightclubs and other liquor-licensed premises. Moskowitz, a candidate for Manhattan borough president, collected data from the citys complaint hotline, and the information shows that most of the noise complaints about nightlife businesses are below 14th St.
Charting 311 calls is not a perfect measurement, but the numbers do back the long-felt belief of many Downtowners that they live near too many noisy bars. Moskowitz points out the lack of coordination between the city Dept. of Environmental Protection, which regulates noise, and the State Liquor Authority. She calls for giving the city some say over liquor licenses, and while that will be a difficult political battle, it would help solve the problem.