2017-07-12 / Editorials

Letters to the Editor

Lhota To LIRR Customers

A copy of this letter was received at the offices of the Queens Gazette.

Dear LIRR Riders,

As you know, Amtrak is beginning emergency repairs at Penn Station Monday, July 10. This repair work will cause service disruptions for many of you who ride the rails to and from work every day.

All of us at the MTA appreciate that Amtrak’s repairs are a serious inconvenience. When our daily commutes become so routine they’re second nature, changes and disruptions can be frustrating. During this period of adjustment to the summer schedule, please bear in mind these are Amtrak repairs that are causing this disruption.

The MTA has worked hand-in-hand with the Penn Station Task Force to prepare a comprehensive transportation plan so that our customers can plan ahead and find alternative services that will best suit your daily commute.

If you plan on riding the LIRR, please visit www.lirrsummerschedule.com.

This website is a one-stop-shop for your the LIRR transportation needs this summer. Use it to:

 Plan your LIRR trips. TripPlanner+ will tell you the best times to ride the LIRR, and will show you alternative routes set up throughout the summer.

 Download the complete LIRR summer schedule. You can see morning and evening rush hour schedule changes for the nine LIRR branches that will be affected.

 Download the LIRR Train Time® app, which will give you the most up-to-date information on LIRR train times and real-time service conditions.

 Sign up for MTA Alerts® to receive real-time travel updates via email and text.

 Get answers to your frequently asked questions. The site will tell you everything from how repair work might affect you to where you can receive free bus and ferry services.

In addition, we have created a wide range of alternative travel options and support services. The MTA will offer LIRR ticket holders free bus and ferry transport, reduced fares and tolls and free subway transfers.

 Three new LIRR trains will run into Penn Station in addition to approximately 36 cars that have been added to LIRR Penn-bound trains.

 Free transfers to subway lines will be offered at Atlantic Terminal, Hunterspoint and Jamaica for all LIRR ticketholders.

 A 25% fare discount, on average, will be offered for LIRR ticket holders traveling to Atlantic Terminal, Hunterspoint Avenue, Long Island City, Nostrand Avenue and East New York.

 A new network of 200 buses with free service for LIRR ticket holders from eight Long Island commuter parking lots to convenient locations in midtown Manhattan. Buses will run Monday through Friday from 6-10 a.m., and 3-7 p.m.

 Free ferry service for LIRR ticket holders. Ferries will run from 6-10 a.m. and from 3-7 p.m.

 Half-price tolls for trucks on MTA crossings from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. to alleviate congestion on roads.

As the disruption caused by Amtrak’s repairs get underway, we will closely monitor the service changes, alternative options and customer communication systems to see where we can improve. Our aim is to be flexible and responsive to your needs.

If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to us. We are here to help. Our customer service representatives are always standing by to field your questions and take your comments in real time. Talk to us at 718-217-LIRR, tweet us @LIRR or write us.

All of us at the MTA are proud to serve you. And we thank you for your patience. Sincerely,

Joseph J. Lhota
Chairman, MTA

Nonpartisan Census Director

A copy of this letter was received at the Queens
The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Trump:

We write to express our concerns regarding the impending vacancy of the head of the U.S. Census Bureau. On May 9, U.S. Census Director John H. Thompson unexpectedly announced that he will step down from his post at the end of this month despite the fact that his term is set to expire in December 2017. In order to avoid compromising the 2020 Census, we strongly request that you move quickly to nominate a new director who is both nonpartisan and highly qualified to fill this critical position.

Director Thompson’s abrupt departure, paired with other high-level vacancies has left a leadership void at the top of the bureau. The agency currently has no permanent deputy director and no deputy secretary of commerce to directly oversee its operations. These vacancies call into question the availability of a qualified interim acting director and could endanger the bureau’s ability to adequately prepare for dissemination of the 2020 Census.

Given this leadership vacuum, it is critical that you appoint a well-qualified, experienced, and nonpartisan leader to guide this enormously significant undertaking. The result of the U.S. Census play a crucial role in everything from congressional redistricting to the distribution of federal resources. GAO’s recent addition of the 2020 Census to its high risk list further reinforces the need for effective leadership at the bureau. In order to maintain the trust of the American people, the census must be led by an individual who is unquestionably impartial and free from undue partisan influence.

In light of heightened concerns about the undercounting of minority populations, it is more important than ever for the individual heading the bureau to have a proven record of competence, integrity, and objectivity. A partisan choice for director could lead to increased mistrust in the communities most likely to be undercounted – especially immigrant communities – which could severely undermine the 2020 Census process.

Finally, it is vital to move quickly to fill Director Thompson’s position because of the uniquely time-sensitive operations of the U.S. Census Bureau. The agency is expected to conduct a full field test of the survey in 2018, to ensure a smooth and effective rollout in 2020. In order to have leadership in place for this essential step in the census preparation process and to afford the Senate ample time to vet a nominee, we urge you to identify an appropriate nominee with all possible haste.

Thank you for your attention to this request. We look forward to the appointment of a qualified and nonpartisan leader who will work to ensure the completion of a transparent, fair, and effective 2020 census.

Signed by 73 Members of Congress, led by: Ruben Gallego, Hakeem S. Jeffries, Grace Meng, Gregory W. Meeks, and including Joseph Crowley, Carolyn B. Maloney and Nydia M. Velázquez

Prudence & Priorities

To The Editor:

It will require more prudent use of existing dollars and a change in priorities for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to solve recent problems with both the subway system and Penn Station. “At The End Of The Line” (Editorial, July 5).

The appointment of past MTA Chair Joe Lhota to assume his old position is a mixed blessing. The good news is, no doubt, that as MTA Chair and CEO between November 2011 to December 2012, he did a great job bringing MTA transportation back from the damage wrought by Super Storm Sandy. Lhota’s previous experience at the MTA and at City Hall serving as NYC Finance Commissioner, Office of Management and Budget Director and Deputy Mayor for Operations under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani position him to hit the ground running. The bad news is that it is disappointing to learn that he will retain his position as a senior Vice President of NYU Langone Medical Center. Now more than ever, his MTA assignment is a full time job well beyond the standard 9 to 5 shift most New Yorkers work. Lhota can’t serve two employers at the same time. Transit riders, taxpayers, transit advocates and elected officials can accept no less.

Lhota will first have to convince Governor Andrew Cuomo to come up with the outstanding balance of $5.8 billion that he still owes toward the $8.3 billion shortfall to fully fund the $32 billion 2015 - 2019 MTA Five Year Capital Plan. The MTA can’t afford to wait until 2018 or 2019 for both $5.8 billion and additional $1 billion recently pledged by Cuomo in response to the ongoing subway and LIRR Penn Station crises. Ditto for Mayor Bill de Blasio, he must deliver the balance of $2.5 billion, which he also pledged to finance for the same plan.

Next, have MTA reprogram $695 million Metro-North East Bronx Penn Station Access, $1.7 billion Second Avenue Subway Phase 2 and $1.95 billion LIRR Main Line Third Track to help fund upgrading NYCT Subway System Signals. This would provide over $3 billion as a down payment against $20 billion needed to bring NYCT Subway System Signals up to a state of good repair. All three cancelled projects can be funded out of the next MTA 2020 - 2024 Five Year Capital Plan. This still provides ample time for both Metro-North East Bronx Penn Station Access and LIRR Main Line Third Track project completions to coincide with LIRR East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal by December 2023 or 2024.

Perhaps it is time for the MTA to stop wasting millions of dollars on transportation feasibility studies for future system expansion projects, costing billions that will never happen on our lifetime. Do not initiate any new system expansion projects until the MTA and each operating agency, including New York City Transit bus and subway, MTA bus, Long Island Rail Road and Metro North Rail Road have reached a state of good repair for existing fleet, stations, signals, interlockings, track, power, yards and shops. Ensure that maintenance programs for all MTA operating agencies’ assets are fully funded and completed on time to ensure riders reliable service.

There is $432 million available under a United States Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Super Storm Sandy grant approved in 2016 for repairs to Penn Station East River Tunnels. Amtrak has said they will not be able to begin work until 2020! And the MTA, on behalf of the LIRR, which was awarded federal grant funding, has not committed to spending these dollars on this critical tunnel work. How can elected officials and transit advocates have any credibility in claiming Washington is shortchanging us when these dollars will not be used for four years?

Larry Penner
Great Neck

Reopen Diving Pool

A copy of this letter was received at the offices
of the Queens Gazette.
November 7, 2016
Hon. Mayor Bill de Blasio
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Dear Mayor de Blasio,

It was an honor to meet you during your visit to Astoria Park on August 2 for Annual Night Out when we passed you our petition to reopen Astoria Diving Pool. You seemed to recognize and understand it as our most valuable asset. Thank you so much for your leadership and incredible generosity in allocating $30 million to Astoria Park via your Anchor Parks initiative. We are writing today to ask three things from you that no one else can provide:

 Demand the Parks Department reopen the Olympic Diving Pool as Mayor Bloomberg had planned for his initial 2012 Olympic Bid (article attached).

 Clarification regarding how the $30 million allocation for Astoria Park is to be used to avoid waste, including any restrictions, and degree of community input.

 Your signature, as Mayor, on the acceptance of placement of Astoria Park Pool and Play Center on the National Register of Historic Places to not only open up state and federal grants, but to become a national tourist destination. Placed for consideration on the registry by architect Giorgio Cavaglier, who helped saved Grand Central Station, (it) has been accepted awaiting final approval from the City of New York ( See enclosed).

The vote for repurposing the historic diving pool and paving over for an amphitheater space was met with a great deal of resistance years ago from residents and the Greater Astoria Historical Society for a number of reasons, including concerns about noise, traffic, and heat (see Queens Gazette article), as well as a desire in the community for the diving pool to be restored to its original function as a diving pool. The pool was designed to maximize heat to kill bacteria, not suitable for fully dressed patrons and performers (see enclosed). However, little of its history was widely known to the newer residents or CB1 board members when it was presented by Parks and the city as a “take it or leave it” proposition, stating that funds were not available to restore the diving pool, although, “it was agreed to preserve the basin, in case the pool could ever be restored in the future,” according to Queens Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski’s recent letter to us.

Our original petition to restore the diving pool was met with open arms by Councilman Costa Constanides, who advised that the bidding did not go well for the amphitheater project on August 2. That petition now includes over 1,000 handwritten signatures from individuals and groups. After you allocated the $30 million, the councilman’s office door closed to us, and the amphitheater/performance venue project budget increased from $1-3 million to $10 million on the City Council website, without any reference to reaching out to the community going forward on this matter. Although Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver started a plan for more outreach to residents and the public over a year ago, the Council and Parks seemed determined on forwarding previous agendas for which minimal outreach to residents occurred. The Parks Dept is supposed to act as steward and has neglected the diving pool for 36 years saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in operation and maintenance while sacrificing generations of children the benefits in one of NYC’s most vibrant communities. The participatory budgets are helpful, but squander money on less vital projects with no mention of major repairs needed which are not listed at the meetings. Neither is past research being done, as many areas in the park were renovated within the past 15 years and the tennis courts twice in that span. Nor are impact studies before money is spent being done as was standard, in some cases “breaking and fixing what is not broken and not fixing what needs to be fixed.” We can elaborate on this in further detail either by meeting with you in person or however you deem fit. (See attached list.)

In response to our previous correspondence to Commissioner Silver, he referred Queens Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski to us, who has been unresponsive to our questions regarding recent studies and costs, simply repeating previous unsubstantiated and inaccurate statements for which we were directed to file FOIL requests as she is now on vacation.

Although at the September 20, 2016 CB1 meeting, Chairman Risi said Astoria Diving Pool discussions would begin anew (See Gazette,) Commissioner Lewandowski is now claiming that the allocation is specifically earmarked in such a way as to prohibit its use for further restoration of the pools including the lighting, and leaking viewing terrace roof over the entrance to the pool. Please advise if this is correct, or if the use of the funds can be applied to any projects (that) are in need of repair, especially the NYC landmarked pools at any upcoming meetings.

 With a little thinking outside the box, the locker rooms can once again be used year-round for a gallery where all the Olympians selected here will be remembered, and office space and visitor center.

 Harness the strongest current in the world under the Hell Gate to provide renewable energy for the whole park and perhaps a ferry to shuttle people to the fields on Randall’s Island to avoid overbuilding our only green space.

Recognized as “one of the most outstanding outdoor recreational aquatic facilities ever built in this country” Astoria Pool and Play Center still has the potential to be restored and preserved. It is also noted within the documents, “Juvenile crime dropped by 44% directly attributed to the WPA pools built by Robert Moses.” (See attached.) Sadly, many of the WPA pools have been dismantled, and there are only three free public diving pools in NYC remaining.

We are asking for your intervention and leadership in helping to save the historic diving pool for future generations before it is too late.

Help us preserve this magnificent art deco facility, not only for its aesthetic and architectural value, but also its historic significance to the three Olympic trials, FDR and Robert Moses’ WPA NYC landmarks and the forgotten Olympians created here in Astoria, NY while affording the opportunity to people of all classes and backgrounds to keep fit, learn the skill of diving and as an inspiration to our youth. Thank you for your time and attention in this important matter. Respectfully yours,

Kathleen K. Springer, Director
Astoria Park and Aquatic Preservation (APAAP)
cc: Commissioners M Silver, D Lewandowski,
First Lady NYC, Chirlane McCray,
CB1 Chair Joe Risi, Queens Borough President
Melinda Katz

Prayers For Familia

To The Editor:

NYPD Officer Miosotis Familia was murdered in the line of duty in the Bronx by Alexander Bonds, who was later killed, himself. She was killed because she was a police officer. I find this a most appalling crime that should not have happened. This demented individual who had a history of criminal activities forgot Officer Familia was out there protecting all persons, including himself. Here was a police officer who was dedicated to her three children and the community which she served with pride and dedication. Officer Miosotis Familia had worked for the Red Cross and as a nurse, before starting her career with the NYPD. It is a sad state of affairs when those who protect us are losing their lives across the country at an alarming rate, by those who have no regard for law and order. These police officers go out every day trying to do what is right by protecting life and property and yet don’t know if they will return home or unharmed. Let me also point out that in my opinion that the anti-cop rhetoric that spreads vilification of cops as racist killers is just wrong. For example the Black Lives Matter movement, that not only jeopardizes police officers but all men, women and children who depend on their protection. In closing, let me offer my heartfelt prayers for the family of Officer Miosotis Familia, and all those fellow officers who will miss her as well. I also offer my prayers for the safety of all law enforcement officers nationwide at these most troubling times. May God bless and protect all those who are dedicated to protecting us and all we hold most dear.

Frederick R. Bedell Jr.
Glen Oaks Village

Mourning PO Familia

To The Editor:

The senseless shooting of Police Officer Miosotis Familia is just that – senseless! The animal who did this just walked right up to the patrol car and fired, point-blank into the passenger side, killing her instantly. Fortunately, other officers gave chase and found the suspect, and shot and killed him. All New Yorkers mourn the loss of this brave police officer, a 12-year veteran and a mother of three children. Now it isn’t even safe for officers to sit in their patrol cars – things are really starting to get out of hand. Our police officers and firefighters are the true heroes and heroines of our city, who put their lives on the line each and every day to protect us. We all owe them an eternal debt of gratitude.

John Amato
Fresh Meadows

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