2015-09-30 / Political Page

Katz Answers MTA Threat To Slash Funding

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz jumped into the MTA’s squabble with Mayor Bill de Blasio last week after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) threatened to slash funding for New York City transit projects from its capital plan.

“It is astonishing to me that the MTA would threaten to hold New York City transit projects hostage for more city money,” Katz slapped at the MTA, pointing out that the MTA’s function is “to deliver transit services throughout the [metropolitan] region, not to stifle projects at the expense of millions of suffering customers.”

For several weeks now, MTA Chairman Thomas F. Prendergast has repeatedly been badgering the mayor to increase the city’s contribution to the MTA by more than $2 billion, but de Blasio’s refusing to do so. That’s where the MTA threat to cut NYC projects out of the agency’s capital plan came from.

But Katz charged back at the threat, saying, “New York city residents and businesses already pay more than our fair share at 75 percent of the MTA’s regional budget; and yet in a transit desert like Queens, most of the subway stations we do have are still structurally deficient. Millions of Queens residents have long deserved a more reliable mass transit experience, and capital projects like the full reconstruction of the Jamaica Bus Depot signal modernization along the E, F, M and R lines, and complete renovations of 16 Queens subway stations are absolutely critical.

“Considering them as bargaining chips does little to instill confidence in the MTA. We also urge the MTA to implement a full-time extension of the CityTicket pricing to help make the LIRR a more accessible and viable transit option, especially for Queens residents.”

After taking a breath, Katz continued, “Furthermore the MTA should guarantee that the billions in additional taxpayer dollars from the city will be solely used for overdue MTA improvements and enhancements.”

Katz also pointed out: “In the Executive Budget in May, the City Administration increased capital funding to fully meet the MTA’s request of $657 million, the largest capital contribution to the agency in recent history. That is in addition to the $1 billion plus a year in operating funds the City provides the MTA, the $2.4 billion for the 7 train extension to the West Side, and an additional $200 million in capital from the Vanderbilt Corridor Rezoning.”

Still on a roll, the feisty BP also pointed out: “In FY14, the MTA’s operating budget was $13.9 billion. City residents and businesses paid $10.1 billion in fares, tolls and dedicated taxes, which was $288 million more than what the MTA spent on NYC Transit, MTA Bus and Staten Island Rail Road combined.

Katz concluded; “Over the years the MTA hasn’t met it obligation with $270 million diverted from MTA to other state efforts.”

According to newspaper reports, in July, Prendergast asked that New York state pay $8.3 billion toward the MTA’s capital plan and the city pay $3.2 billion, which is considerably higher than the city’s current commitment of $657 million. Reportedly, Gov. Cuomo has agreed to pay the state’s share. However, Mayor de Blasio continues to argue that the city has already paid its share, and that federal and state officials should kick in more toward the MTA’s projected $29 billion proposed budget.

MALONEY SLAMS GOP ASSAULT ON WOMEN’S HEALTH CARE: Denouncing congressional Republicans’ attack on Planned Parenthood (H.R. 3134), Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney last week stood up against that effort by opposing legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, and another bill that would establish criminal penalties for abortion providers (HR 3504).

In both cases, Maloney said, the GOP lawmakers were copying state legislation that has resulted in clinic closures that severely limited access to comprehense reproductive healthcare, including abortion.

Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) declared: “These efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, and criminalize abortion providers will do serious harm to the 2.7 million men and women who count on Planned Parenthood for critical medical services each year. This continued assault on constitutionally protected reproductive freedoms is based on outright falsehoods, backed up only by surreptitious recordings selectively edited by radical anti-choice activists. If they have their way, 630,000 patients will lose access to birth control, STD screenings and other reproductive services.”

Maloney voted against HR 3134, the Defund Planned Parenthood Act. In 2013 alone, she said Planned Parenthood’s 669 centers saw more than 2.6 million patients – providing more than 370,000 Pap tests and more than 450,000 breast exams.

Maloney also voted against HR 3504, which would place vaguely worded and extremely unclear new “standard of care” requirements on physicians, while at the same time threatening physicians with serious criminal penalties for failure to comply. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes, noting that the “legislation represents gross interference in the practice of medicine, inserting a politician in between a woman and her trusted doctor. The Franks bill would only add unnecessary new requirements and draconian criminal penalties to a law already on the books.”

GIANARIS BASHES 7 LINE SERVICE: Commenting on the Straphangers Campaign ranking the 7 subway line as the best in city, state Senator Michael Gianaris (D–Western Queens) stated: “If the 7 train is the city’s best, I shudder to think of how bad the others must be. Despite this report, it is clear to any resident of western Queens that the 7 train line is in dire need of improvement. Between numerous malfunctions and scheduled shutdowns, it is clear the MTA has failed to recognize the rapid growth of our neighborhoods and must do more to improve train performance for Queens residents.”

MALONEY COMMENT ON POPE’S CONGRESS ADDRESS: Following Pope Francis’ unprecedented address to Congress last Wednesday, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who attended the event, issued the following comment:

“Today the Pope of the Holy See issued a clarion call for the world, and more specifically for Congress, to come together and work as one to solve the problems that beset us for the common good. From the very moment the Pope addressed us all as ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ until his final words, I have never seen Congress more receptive to a message. So often in Congress we become entrapped by the minutia of legislation, and the politics of the moment. But what Pope Francis did today was refocus our attention to our guiding principles and moral imperatives.

“Pope Francis reminded us that the pursuit of social justice is deeply ingrained in our own history, and he presented multiple ways we can continue marching toward that goal today.

“We can and should take action to stop all the forms of modern day slavery. We can and should take action to address global environmental challenges like climate change. We can and should take action to address the global arms trade, which the Pope said was ‘drenched in blood.’ We can and should follow the Golden Rule, reform our immigration system, and do more to address the global refugee crisis. We can and should do more to support the poor, and reform our economy so that it can sustain new families. These priorities are in keeping with the trajectory of our history as a nation.

“It is my hope that His Holiness’ admonition that ‘politics is an expression of our need to live as one’ will inspire a renewed commitment to stand united, to set aside our differences and to confront head on the economic and social challenges we face.”

Later that afternoon, Congresswoman Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) also attended the Vespers service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

CROWLEY: FED GRANT TO HELP HISPANIC STUDENTS AT VAUGHN COLLEGE: Congressman Joseph Crowley, the Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives, announced last week that Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology will receive a $500,000 federal grant to help close the achievement gap for Hispanic students at the college.

The grant will be issued, Crowley said, under the US Department of Education’s Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Program. Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) stated, “The grant will help Vaughn increase the number of Hispanic students who are enrolled, persist and graduate with high-earning degrees.”

The lawmaker added: “These resources are critical for HSIs such as Vaughn College to continue providing Latinos with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in fields where they have been historically underrepresented,” said Crowley, who co-authored the Hispanic Opportunity Program Education and Science Act (HOPES Act) in April.

“It’s vitally important Latinos, our nation’s youngest and fastest-growing ethnic group, are well-equipped for the jobs of tomorrow and ready to contribute to our nation’s future economic growth, security and global leadership,” Crowley declared, adding, “Vaughn has a long and storied tradition of success and I congratulate them on this award.”

Dr. Sharon De Vivo, President of the college, commented: “Vaughn College is excited about the opportunity to provide Hispanic students even greater support to help them achieve the dream of a college degree in engineering, aviation, technology and management.

“As a designated Hispanic-Serving Institution by the US Department of Education, and with a student population that truly reflects the diversity of New York City, Vaughn’s project will raise academic success by increasing student achievement rates on several milestones toward degree completion,” she added.

Crowley explained, the HSI program provides grants to assist HSIs to expand educational opportunities for, and to improve the attainment of Hispanic students. The HSI program grants also enable HSIs to expand and enhance their academic offerings, program quality, and institutional stability.

Crowley has been a leader in the effort to secure grant opportunities for HSIs, including coauthoring legislation and leading successful measures in the House of Representatives in support of these institutions.

In June, the House of Representatives passed Crowley’s bipartisan amendment to the FY 2016 Intelligence Authorization Act to provide national security training grants to HSIs to prepare students for careers in national security.

In addition to Crowley, the amendment was offered by Reps. Jose Serrano (D–Bronx) and Carlos Curbelo (R–FL). In May, Crowley, Serrano, Curbelo, along with Reps. Ben Ray Lujan (D–NM) and Will Hurd (R–TX) successfully led an amendment to the America COMPETES

Reauthorization Act to require the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish a grant program to support undergraduate STEM education at HSIs.

CUOMO ANNOUNCES PLAN FOR JFK HOTEL: Fulfilling his pledge to modernize New York’s airports for the 21st century, Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week announced the formal approval of a 75-year lease deal to turn the landmark TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy airport into a world-class hotel complex which will honor the airport’s golden jet age era.

It earned that reputation by being designated as a New York City landmark and being the place where the 50th anniversary celebration of the Beatles 1964 arrival at JFK for the renowned rock band’s first visit to the US that launched the Beatlemania craze and the British invasion.

Cuomo stated: “This administration has committed to modernizing New York’s airports …by creating gateways worthy of New York City and ensuring travelers have the services they need. At the TWA Flight Center, we are able to meet those goals while also preserving its iconic design for passengers to enjoy for decades to come.”

The Kennedy development follows closely upon the governor’s recent announcement of the building of a new La Guardia Airport in East Elmhurst. Together they represent an enormous achievement for Cuomo, and he still has a couple of years left in his second term to embellish his reputation further.

JFK is one of the few US airports without an on-airport hotel, although there are several close to the airport. The planned $265 million construction project at JFK which is expected to break ground next year, will generate 3,700 jobs – including approximately 2,500 union construction and restoration jobs – and the hotel is expected to open in 2018. Plans for the hotel were first announced by the governor in July.

Plans call for the hotel to have 505 rooms, 40,000 square feet of meeting space, restaurants, a spa and a 10,000-square foot observation deck. Also the complex will feature two six-story hotel towers and a micro-grid energy management system, allowing the complex to generate its own power.

Additionally, preservationists will see the curving 1960s-era stark white concourse with plush-red lounge area, designed by legendary architect Eero Saarinen, remains as it first looked half-a-century ago following a $20 million renovation by the Port Authority to comply with the building’s historic designation.

The project approved and announced by the Port Authority, which operates Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports, calls for a 75-year lease agreement with Flight Center Hotel LLC, a partnership of MCR Development and JetBlue Airways Corporation, to remake the TWA Flight Center and its nearly six-acre site into JFK’s brand new airport hotel. MCR Development will maintain 95 percent ownership of the hotel and JetBlue will have five percent.

Development of an on-airport hotel fulfills a key recommendation provided by the Governor’s Airport Master Plan Advisory Panel for Kennedy Airport’s master plan. Along with the developer’s financial commitment, the Port Authority also will invest up to $8 million in a connector to the JetBlue terminal, a parking garage and AirTrain Station to serve the hotel complex.

The TWA Flight Center opened to critical architectural acclaim in 1962, a year after Saarinen’s death, and served as TWA’s terminal at JFK until 2001. When the building was deemed obsolete as a terminal because it could no longer accommodate today’s passenger volumes or modern aircraft, the Port Authority undertook an intricate renovation to preserve a part of aviation history.

In 1994, the City of New York designated the terminal a historic landmark and in 2005 the National Park Service listed the TWA Flight Center on the National Register of Historic Places. The soaring white landmark building is adjacent to Terminal 5 and is part of JetBlue Airway’s JFK operations.

Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said, “The Port Authority is proud to ensure the TWA Flight Center plays a critical role in JFK Airport’s future, while acknowledging its importance in aviation history. The new hotel will serve the growing needs of our passengers throughout the 21st century…

MCR Development CEO Tyler Morse stated: “Thank you to Governor Cuomo and the Port Authority for this incredible opportunity to celebrate and preserve Eero Saarinen’s historic masterpiece….

Rich Smythe, JetBlue Vice President of Corporate Real Estate, stated: “As New York’s hometown airline, we are proud to be a minority investor in MCR’s redevelopment plan, which preserves the terminal’s historic importance while also returning it to the public for all to enjoy.”

NOLAN; ‘RAVENSWOOD NEEDS PREK’: Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood) issued the following statement:

“As Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, I have consistently advocated for the state to make the necessary investments so our local communities, including our city, can offer full-day quality pre-K. Expanding pre-K will provide more children with the opportunity for quality early education, preparing them for success in school and beyond. Ravenswood needs this program.”

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