2017-02-08 / Editorials

Letters to the Editor

Sanctuary District

Dear Friends:

In a political climate defined by President Trump’s un-American executive order on immigration and his anti-immigrant rhetoric dating back to his campaign, I want you to know that the 13th Senatorial District is a sanctuary district. My office will continue, as it always has, to assist and to protect immigrants and their families.

The President’s executive order is incompatible with our American values. I’ve said it many times before, but I will protect my district, probably the most diverse district in the nation.

In response to this repulsive situation, the New York State Independent Democratic Conference announced the creation of the Immigration Defense Coalition. My office will provide legal services from partnering immigration organizations to help immigrants and their families, including one-on-one assistance related to visas, green cards, deportation and questions about the impact of the new administration’s policies.

If you have any questions or need assistance, do not hesitate to stop by my office or to call us at 718-205-3881.

Jose Peralta
State Senate

Bioswale Benefits

To The Editor:

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the placement of bioswales, also known as rain gardens, in our communities. These structures are to be placed curbside, along our streets, for the purpose of absorbing runoff water in order to reduce flooding and to lower the amount of water running into our storm drains. The bioswales would be constructed, for the most part, between the curb and the sidewalk on city property.

Bioswales are permeable areas that include plantings and a low barrier fence that take in runoff water and absorb it through a series of special soils and drainage stones. They are attractive and environmentally beneficial. Given the amount of development in all areas of the city, and the excessive use of cementing over large portions of building lots, bioswales are designed to help reduce the amount of water that often flood streets and homes during storms.

Bioswales also reduce the amount of water taken in by our infrastructure of storm drains. Many areas have combined sewer overflow systems that mix runoff water with sewage material coming from homes and businesses. When a storm produces so much water that the drains can no longer handle the runoff, huge amounts of combined sewage is released into our waterways, adding to pollution.

Unfortunately, the implementation of the bioswale program by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has caused many concerns and questions to be raised. People do not know enough about bioswales. DEP needs to do a better job of educating people as to what bioswales are and do.

There is also the question as to who will maintain the bioswales. DEP claims they will come around to do that on a regular basis, however, many people are skeptical of city agency promises.

Some ask, why aren’t more bioswales constructed on highway medians and along other open spaces, like parks? They could be made larger and therefore absorb more water.

Then there are the concerns about parking by a bioswale. How will passengers exit vehicles safely parked next to a bioswale?

There is also the thought that there would be increased mosquito problems with bioswales. Fortunately, the bioswales are designed to drain quickly and not give mosquitos enough time to evolve in a wet environment to cause issues for residents.

People wonder who is legally responsible if someone falls over a bioswale and gets injured, the city or the adjacent homeowner? One would assume that the city is responsible, since bioswales would be placed on city property.

Then there are the issues of what can be done to improve water runoff in general, like why doesn’t the city do a better job of keeping storm drains and catch basins unclogged in order to absorb more runoff water? Also, why isn’t there more effort being made to preserve and protect mature street trees that absorb huge amounts of water? And also, why doesn’t the Department of Buildings enforce regulations more forcibly that ban the paving over of front yards in certain zones that should remain open and porous to absorb rain water?

Questions have been raised concerning the homeowners’ prerogative to opt out of having a bioswale placed in front of their property. Also, many feel that homeowners should be given a rebate on their water/sewer bill if they have a bioswale placed in front of their home, since they are helping to reduce flooding problems.

These issues and questions can be resolved through community discussion and better education efforts. In any event, bioswales are beneficial, however, considerations and explanations to the public need to be given by city agencies if this project is to be successful.

Henry Euler

Public/Private Buses

To The Editor:

It was 12 years ago, in 2005, when the city of New York completed the purchase of seven remaining private bus operator franchises. This included Green Bus Lines, Jamaica Buses, Triboro Coach Corporation and Queens Surface, providing service in Queens, Command Bus (Brooklyn), Liberty Lines Bronx Express and New York Bus Service (Bronx). The Metropolitan Transportation Authority created a new operating agency, MTA Bus, to continue service previously provided by the private bus operators. Subsequently, they entered into 50-year lease agreements to utilize and operate all of their garages. The deal was supposed to benefit riders and taxpayers.

Prior to 2005, the New York City Department of Transportation using a combination of city, state and federal funding provided both capital and operating assistance to all seven private bus operators. Virtually all of the capital funding was provided by grants from the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration. For 35 years, these grant funds paid for replacement buses, radios, fare boxes, bus stop shelters, bus washers, facility improvements and new bus garages for Queens Surface in College Point and Command Bus in Canarsie. All seven bus companies, including Green Bus Lines, Jamaica Buses, Queens Surface (formerly Steinway Bus Corporation and Queens Bus), Triboro Coach Corporation, Command Bus, Liberty Lines Bronx Express and New York Bus Service could not survive on fare box revenues alone. With insufficient income, they all counted on NYCDOT starting in the 1970s to begin purchasing replacement buses, fare boxes, radios and other support equipment for their respective aging bus fleets. In many cases, bus operators had to operate and maintain buses well beyond the industry standard useful life of 12 years and/or 500,000 miles. Too many buses in revenue service were between 12 and 27 years old, with far more mileage. It took NYCDOT too many years to complete any bus procurements before operators received and could provide the riding public with new modern buses. Give MTA Bus credit for purchasing hundreds of new buses and investments to upgrade antiquated bus garages far more quickly than NYCDOT ever could.

The operational savings for taxpayers never appeared. Instead, the $100 million per year New York City subsidy formerly provided to the private bus operators grown to over $200 million for MTA Bus. The private bus company owners earn several million per year from MTA Bus for leasing their facilities. Potential operational savings by consolidation of duplicative routes between New York City Transit Bus and MTA Bus never took place. The same was true for reducing deadheading costs by reassigning bus routes between MTA Bus and NYCT Bus to closer garages for reduction of operating costs. Work rules and contracts between different labor unions representing employees at NYCT Bus and MTA Bus have prevented any changes to the status quo.

We have gone full circle, from private to public operators over the past 60 years. Was it worth it for riders of the original routes operated by the old Green Bus Lines, Jamaica Buses, Triboro Coach Corporation, Command Bus, Liberty Lines Bronx Express and New York Bus Service? Ditto for taxpayers? Time will tell.

Larry Penner
Great Neck

Larry Penner is a transportation historian and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.

No One Wins

To The Editor:

According to former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, the worldwide situation is looming even closer to major conflict than ever before. With both NATO and Russia positioning troops and missiles within each other’s borders, the real possibility exists that an incident could trigger an outbreak of war that would drag both Russia and the US into nuclear conflict, and ultimately affect the entire world, which would be a major catastrophe. Both President Trump and President Putin must work very hard to avert the kind of potentially dangerous situation that Mr. Gorbachev is talking about. In a nuclear conflict, there is no winner, and all of humanity will be the losers. President Trump and President Putin, are you both listening?

John Amato
Fresh Meadows

Grade Vendors

To The Editor:

I agree that vendors who sell food on the street should be given the same grading system as restaurants, and should be subject to the same board of health standards in terms of sanitary control.

I also think that a five-cent tax on plastic bags is wrong, and hurts those who can least afford the fee.

I am so glad that our borough is the best, and that it is so diverse. I am proud to have Melinda Katz as our Borough President.

Also, I do not think that religion and politics should mix. Clergy should, and must, not use their pulpits for political discussions.

Cynthia Groopman
Little Neck

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