Volume 21, Number 34 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 26 - January 1, 2009

Letters to the Editor

Bus plan isn’t working

To The Editor:
Re “City tells Downtown skeptics the Broadway bus lane ‘seems’ to work” (news article, Dec. 19 – 25):

I am a wheelchair user who represents many people who use wheelchairs and scooters.  Members of my organization and another one, Disabilities Network of NYC met with representatives from the Dept. of Transportation and N.Y.C. Transit about the bus islands.  D.O.T. used to call them bus bulbs but now they agree with us that they are actually bus islands because they are not attached to the sidewalk like a bus bulb is. 

 The most dangerous problem scooter and wheelchair users have with the bus islands is getting to them!  They only have one point of entry, either north or south, and if we are approaching from the other direction and there is no curb cut on that end of the block, we have to approach from the street.  This summer, I came up from City Hall and approached several of the bus islands.  I had no choice but to go in the middle of Broadway against traffic.  Scary?  Dangerous?  You bet. There is only one way to get on or off the islands! We could get maimed or killed just trying to get to a bus or getting off a bus.

 Real bus buds are connected to the sidewalk and have entrance points all over the sidewalk.

 What is D.O.T.’s answer?  They will do a “survey” to see if they can put ramps in when they already know they can at least put tar in for now like they did on the end of the intersections next to the island ramps. 

 As you pointed out in your article, the buses often cannot stop at the bus islands. I missed an express bus to a doctor’s appointment because it didn’t see me or two standees on the island because of tour buses parked in the space. Often the buses leapfrog each other and stop in the street but I cannot get the lift in the street. The island gets jammed with people and we cannot maneuver at all to the bus that we need or signal to the driver that we need to get on the bus. The tour buses make it worse and so do the bicyclists who lock their bikes there, the store tenants who leave garbage on the islands, and the water sellers.

 The wheelchair lift is another issue.  There isn’t enough room on the islands for the lift and our scooters or chairs in many cases.  The D.O.T. did not make the islands A.D.A. compliant. If we take the bus and cannot get out at the island or if the bus cannot stop at the island, they let us out on the street and we have to fight our way through traffic. 

 I am a mother, wife, and grandmother, community board member, retiree, activist.  Why should I (or anyone else) have to risk my life just to take the bus or shop or visit my grandson or go to a meeting or do anything else? 
Jean Ryan
Vice president for public relations, Disabled In Action

To The Editor:
I’m not a bike-riding head of D.O.T., not a borough commissioner either, but the first time I saw their bus islands, I couldn’t help but wonder what the heck was this all about.

Dedicated bus lane you say — the bus has to move from its curbside lane to go into the next lane to stop at this island.  It was immediately clear that this was some hare-brain idea by someone who probably never rode a bus.

 Now I read that the idea was to move the cars and the bus at the same speed.   Give me a break.  Since when was this the issue and to not know if this is successful — that is your job isn’t it?

 And at a time like now — to be spending $250,000 and $300,000 when people are deciding whether they can afford to send out homeowner tax money — is obscene.

 Why can’t the bus have a dedicated bus lane and pick up people at the curb like they do all over the city?   

 This game is almost as bad as stupid bike lanes where you gave them the street but they ride without lights and do not have to obey the traffic signals.  This is not a country road.  This is the city.

 Is everyone in charge missing a few I.Q. points?
 Phyllis Unroch

Firehouse cut

To The Editor:
Here’s an open letter to the honorable Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

I would like to take the opportunity to write you regarding a vital issue that is going to adversely effect many thousands of individuals who work or live in the Lower Manhattan community.

I refer to your decision to curtail and take Engine 4 out of service from the local firehouse here on South St. I understand and respect that the city is in the midst of a severe financial crisis, and as mayor you have to make tough choices.

Nevertheless, having been down in this community every day and on many different hours of the day and night, I am extremely troubled over such a decision and planned reduction in our fire protection.

The makeup of this community is changing quite a bit, and has many more hi-rise buildings that have gone residential.

That equates into many more people in this area on a 24-hour basis. We have additional new hotels in the area also.

I’ve had to call upon the men and women that serve in this firehouse so many times, for a variety of emergency calls. For instance, we’ve called upon them as responders for automobile accidents especially on the F.D.R. Drive and by the heliport with many, many collisions with motorist entrapments -- many often so serious that they result in fatalities. All of this in addition to their normal primary firefighting duties.

I do completely understand the need for financial restraint, but I feel that what we would lose, would not justify such a cut.

I would rather not see some of the N.Y.P.D. Atlas units that ride through our area every day with blaring lights and sirens and park in various areas on the sidewalks, to create a feeling of security. The caravan of radio cars come every day and are sent from all of the five boroughs and travel here with most staff on overtime. Could it not be possible to reduce such a caravan by 50 percent?

As an individual who counts and relies on this firehouse so much, I write you to urge you, to rethink the decision to take Engine 4 out of service.
Phil Fox

Questionable M.T.A.

To the Editor:
The M.T.A.’s $1.2 billion “shortfall” in its operating budget, which it plans to wring out of an already overburdened public, comes to slightly less than the close to $1.5 billion it says it needs to allocate to “debt service” on what it owes on funds previously borrowed for capital budget projects, according to a Nov. 20 article in The New York Times.

Thus, if not for the M.T.A.’s interest payments, there would be no “shortfall” in its operating budget and consequently, no necessity for sacrificial service and staff cuts, injurious fare increases or various desperate fund-raising schemes of dubious common sense.

Because the $1.5 billion consists of interest on loans for capital projects rather than maintenance, logic would dictate that it comes out of the capital rather than the operating (i.e., maintenance) budget. Eliminating this $1.5 billion “debt service” from the operating budget and transferring it to the capital budget where it belongs would automatically eliminate the “shortfall” in the operating budget and, with it, the putative necessity for cuts in service and personnel and fare increases to cover it.

The fact that this is not what is being projected gives rise to a slew of questions that strangely, nobody has asked and which certainly require answers even at this eleventh hour, before any regrettable decisions are rendered. Here are some of them:

What was the original amount of the loan, when was it made, and for what capital projects? Or were there several loans? Who is/are the creditors? What was and is the interest rate on the loans?

How much of the “debt service” is repayment of the original loan? How much is interest on the loan? How much of it is interest on the interest? How many more years will it take to pay off the original loan?

These questions — and their complicated nature demonstrates that there are many more — should be asked and answered by the M.T.A. before any agreement is reached on a fund-raising plan to cover a “shortfall” that might not be necessary.
Aviva Cantor

B.P.C. questions  

To The Editor:
Battery Park City Authority C.E.O. Cavanaugh’s inept and questionable firing of the B.P.C.A. controller and your report of a highly politicized workplace are embarrassments to New York State government and of grave concern (news article, Dec. 12 – 18, “Authority’s controller fired abruptly, leaving some to wonder”). With the former controller no longer working at B.P.C.A., this is a great opportunity to find out how B.P.C.A. spends our tax dollars and how they make decisions that impact Battery Park City living (i.e., ground rents, Gateway).  

As a B.P.C. parent & resident, I’d especially like to know how Downtown schools/organizations stack up dollar-wise against every other recipient of B.P.C.A.’s funding over the past 5 years.  How does B.P.C.A. decide to sponsor, fund, underwrite, or contribute in any way to outside organizations? How many luncheons, dinners, galas, and fundraisers does B.P.C.A. spend our tax dollars to attend?   Who decides to spend the money? If the board can’t prevent a highly politicized environment from reigning at B.P.C.A., then how do we know that spending of our tax dollars is not subject to the whim of the politicos trying to keep themselves in favor and in circulation at taxpayer expense?
Maria Ouranitsas

Puzzling lack of arrests

To The Editor:
Re “Merchandise raid” (Police Blotter, Dec. 19 - 25):

It is gratifying to read of the major bootleg merchandise bust in the Police Blotter section. According to your article, more than $1 million worth of illegal goods were seized and a large illegal vending operation was stopped. I was surprised to read that no one was arrested. The reason for the lack of an arrest was not mentioned in your article; however, anyone with a questioning mind would like to know why not.

This particular enforcement action appears to be targeted against distributors and retailers, not manufacturers of illegal goods; and, as we know, counterfeiting and bootlegging will continue to thrive as long as the illegal goods continue to be manufactured. That is why legal vendors, veterans and street artists have called for action in this regard, though to date little has been done.

For instance, the huge bootleg art industry goes on unimpeded by enforcement action. You can walk down almost any street in New York City and see illegally copied artwork being sold to an unsuspecting public in spaces on the sidewalk that should be used by real artists and legal vendors.

Frankly, I will be far more gratified when I read of enforcement action against the huge bootleg art industry and the manufacturers of illegal merchandise in a future issue of your paper.
Lawrence White

Editor’s Note: The raid was made before business hours so no one was at the scene to be arrested.

Letters policy
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