'City's Falling Apart- Fix It,' Say Lawmakers
Citing a series of infrastructure debacles in New York City that have created dangerous conditions and disrupted normal activities, city officials have appealed to Mayor Michael Bloomberg to take immediate steps to address the city's mounting infrastructure problems.
City Councilmember David Weprin, on Sunday unveiled legislation to create a special commission to study infrastructure failings. The proposed body would be empowered to create an Infrastructure Improvement Plan to address major deficiencies within the city.
Weprin (D- Hollis), chair of the council Finance Committee, was joined by City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. in calling for the special commission.
Meanwhile, Congressmember Joseph Crowley, Assemblymember Margaret Markey and Councilmember Eric Gioia called for an investigation of the flooding which occurred in Woodside, Elmhurst and Maspeth during last Wednesday's heavy rains.
Among the recent infrastructure failures cited by Weprin was bringing the subway system to a halt caused by a rainstorm last week that flooded the underground transit system. The subway stoppage was also cited by Congressmember Anthony Weiner and Councilmember John Liu as transit officials' failure to keep open lines of communication with thousands of stranded straphangers. The mass confusion could have been averted, Weiner and Liu said, if the Transit Authority had a cellphone system in place in the subways.
Weprin, in calling for the infrastructure improvements, cited several debacles of the recent past, including the massive steam pipe explosion in Midtown Manhattan on July 18 and the subway shutdown it caused, and last week's subway stoppage.
Weprin stated that his proposed commission's principal focus would be these major deficiencies and also electrical outages, bridge and tunnel safety, inadequacies in the sewer system and roadway repair and maintenance.
Weprin said, "It is intended for the commission to serve as a complement to the mayor's 2030 Plan which primarily addresses the city's growing sustainability problems."
The lawmaker added that the commission's infrastructure study was imminently necessary because, he said, "When disaster strikes, our ability to remain safe and functional depends on the steps we have taken to prepare for instances of tragedy."
Thompson stated that he hoped the commission would help assess the demonstrated needs he and Weprin had cited.
Crowley (D- Queens/The Bronx) said last week's tornado and thunderstorms were not the first time sections of his district had been hard hit.
"It is time to determine whether the persistent flooding of certain sections of Queens is simply due to extreme acts by Mother Nature or if the city's infrastructure is, in part, to blame," Crowley declared.
He said this was why he and his colleagues were calling on Comptroller Thompson to spearhead the investigation into the possible causes of the local flooding.
Markey (D- Maspeth) said that last Wednesday was the second time this season her district had been struck.
She stated, "I believe that overdevelopment, combined with antiquated sewer lines and clogged catch basins are contributing factors to the flooding. Until something is done about it my constituents will have flooded basements after each heavy rain we have."
Gioia (D- Long Island City) said that when he visited the flooded areas last week, he was shocked by the extent of the flooding.
He stated, "Some natural events are out of control. But these residents, many of whom suffered serious losses, deserve to know if there's more the city could have done for them. Last week's flooding wasn't the first time, but we want to do our best to make sure it's the last."
Weiner, in commenting on the storm and the resulting subway flooding, recalled he had called for cellphone service in the subways four years ago.
As the subway flooding occurred last week, he stated, "Commuters were left high and dry without information on the status of the mass transit system. Were cellphone service available to commuters on platforms, the MTA could have used wireless technology to get the word out, instead of relying on dry erase boards and bullhorns."
Liu (D- Flushing) said he, too, was calling for cellphone capability in the subways. "If our kids can text 'BFF' to each other, it shouldn't be too difficult for the MTA to figure out how to send us more urgent messages," he said.
Liu also admonished the system operators for not having an even more basic communication technology- amplified sound- and called on the MTA to ensure that every subway platform has a working public address system.