2003-07-23 / Editorials


N Extension To LaG Dead

Sometimes the little guy does win—but not because the big guy was listening to him.

In the case of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and its decision to drop plans to extend the ‘N’ train to LaGuardia Airport, the reason was that the authority had bigger fish to fry, as several other mass transit developments required all the money the agency could lay its hands on.

Whatever the reason, we’re happy—no, ecstatic—it happened, and we’re happy that the people of Astoria made it happen by rising up and shouting with a single voice that the 31st Street (-19th Avenue route) was the wrong way to the airport.

For that matter, the same applies to the other two routes the MTA was considering to extend the N train—either underground or via an elevated structure along the Grand Central Parkway.

The MTA hedged a bit on whether the plan is dead or just out of steam at this moment. But as far as the Gazette is concerned, the MTA should dump the plan in the waste basket and forget about it.

The proposal should have been DOA when it was first sprung on the Astoria community. It made no sense to tear up and place a cloud over a residential and commercial neighborhood that was and is vibrant and flourishing in every respect, especially when there was a perfect alternative.

While we urge the MTA to forget about the mass transit connection to LaGuardia—it does nothing for Astoria or western Queens—if it ever gets revived, we support the proposal to extend the Number 7 transit line from Willets Point near Shea Stadium in Flushing to the airport.

From the moment this plan saw the light of day, it made sense. Willets Point for the most part is an industrial commercial area so running a train route through it would cause no disruption to homeowners. Also the plan would have involved the back part of the airport for use as the entrance point, so there would have been no major flap on that point.

The other proposal that the Gazette would put forth, now that the LaGuardia link has been shelved, is to find another use for the $645 million that’s been set aside in the MTA budget for the La G-N connection project. This can be done by amending the spending plan.

Last week, stories out of Washington emphasized the unreliability of depending on President George W. Bush and Congress to fund anti-terrorism and Homeland Security programs.

United States Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney both spoke out on plans to distribute nearly $2 billion in federal funds by giving rural states a greater per capita portion than more highly threatened areas such as New York. Obviously the more funding that can be found in New York state to take care of the needs of its major cities, the more secure we will be.

At about the same time that Clinton and Maloney were calling for more funding for New York state, City Councilmember John Liu was saying that the MTA, besides having to deal with the fare issue, had to also attend to the issue of anti-terror security throughout the vast transit system.

Liu declared no coherent plan was in place to deal with potential terrorist attacks on the transit system. The Flushing lawmaker also cited another MTA shortcoming, the agency’s failure to deal with inadequate procedures for safeguarding workers on subway tracks.

These are both serious and pressing issues which can be addressed by the $645 million originally earmarked for the N line extension now languishing in the MTA budget. Little time should be wasted putting the anti-terror plan for the transit system in place, and since we cannot rely on getting the funding we need from the federal government, it behooves our transit leaders to find the funds in their budgets. At this juncture, the $645 million is a perfect fit for the subway anti-terror program, a high priority issue at this point.

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