With the Legislature still out of Session, most of the exciting news is happening right here in the District. While I was holding meetings in Albany on Monday, October 5, my staff member Earnestine Bell-Temple who is a District Leader in our community met with Margaret Forgione, Manhattan Borough Commissioner for the City's Department of Transportation, plus about 100 members of the community including advocates for pedestrians to discuss a plan that would install a pedestrian island in the street near Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot. (Photo below left.)
Esplanade Gardens Wins Pedestrian Safety Battle
According to this plan, the island would run from West 144th Street to West 147th Street and would be intended to make it safer and easier for pedestrians to cross the street to reach this important, newly-reconstructed transit hub. However, there are concerns this plan could disrupt the balance that must be struck between pedestrian safety and the ability of buses and other large vehicles to navigate the street. DOT's plan has been scaled back considerably from the original plan the agency released in March 2015. The revised plan, which was released just days ago, calls for the installation of new crosswalks and pedestrian ramps on Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Boulevard at the corners of West 147th and West 146th Streets and pedestrian refuge areas along the full length of the block between 144th and 145th Streets, and part of the block between 145th and 146th Streets. DOT's plan would also maintain two if not three lanes in each direction on Lenox Ave. and add new pavement markings to better direct vehicular traffic. Their plan would also remove rush hour curb regulation, restoring 18 parking spaces between 144th and 145th Streets between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
In related news, DOT has completed a necessary road-striping project near the Bus Depot. As you know, while there are stop signs mounted on the poles on either side of the street, they are not perfectly visible, giving bad drivers an excuse not to stop at the intersection at 146th and Lenox. These new road markings, shown below right, eliminate that excuse.
MTA's Five-Year Capital Program Taking Shape
As you have no doubt heard, there has been significant discussion during the recent past of a projected shortfall in funding to pay for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's upcoming Five-Year Capital Program. By law, the MTA is required to prepare a balanced plan for each of their five-year funding cycles, though they are allowed to modify their plan from year to year to account for changing needs and resources.
One year ago, the MTA submitted a plan totaling $28.99 billion for their operations over the five coming years. Please refer to the chart below for a breakdown of their spending plan which included modern electronic train controls, improved bus service and 86 miles of new subway track. However, shortly after the release of this plan, the State's Commissioner of Transportation vetoed that plan, causing MTA officials to return to the drawing board.
|New York City Transit||$17,122|
|Long Island Railroad||3,120|
Governor Cuomo Commits to Additional MTA Funding
Over the summer, Governor Cuomo agreed to increase the State's contribution to MTA's needs by $7.3 billion, for a total of $8.3 billion over the course of their five-year cycle. For their part, the MTA has agreed to reduce their projected spending to $26.8 billion by adopting a series of efficiency plans including the "design-build" program being used elsewhere by the State.
MTA Pursuing Efficiencies, Faster Completion of Capital Projects
In case you do not know, "design-build" essentially means that instead of one company being hired to design a project and a second to build it, both responsibilities are taken on by each company submitting a bid for a project. By eliminating redundancy, costs to taxpayers are reduced and, in many cases, the project is finished quicker than it would be if separate companies were involved, and at less risk of ending up in litigation which was a problem with the traditional bidding method. "Design-build," which was introduced in State government under Governor Cuomo's leadership, was used in the planning and bidding stages of the new Tappan Zee Bridge, for instance.
State and MTA Seeking Additional Funding from City Hall
Both the Executive Branch of State government and the MTA have asked the City to contribute an additional $2.5 billion over and above the $657 million the City agreed to provide to MTA during the upcoming five-year cycle. The State is awaiting the City's response to this capital funding request. I will update you during a future report on the evolving plan for MTA.
Despite these projected financial difficulties, the MTA is making significant progress on projects that have been many years in the making. For instance, just last month, a decade after it was initially proposed, MTA opened the 7 Train subway station at 34th Street and Eleventh Avenue.
Service Upgrades to Benefit Riders Part of Capital Plan
By extending the line into this neighborhood, which was a key part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, it is expected that expanded public transit operations will bring new business into the neighborhood and help expand the local economy.
MTA's Capital Plan for 2015-2019 also includes another major expansion project, extending Long Island Rail Road lines to Grand Central Station. This will require the construction of two new levels of underground terminals to accommodate the newly-added trains and riders, over 30,000 riders on 24 more trains during peak hours which will save these riders almost an hour of commute time while making life easier for riders bound for Penn Station, where the LIRR line now ends. MTA officials estimate that their ridership will continue to grow and, within the next 20 years, an additional 1.6 million people will live and work within their service area.
Rising to that challenge will be essential to the continued vibrancy of our City, and it has been a pleasure to work with MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast to help prepare for those needs. I applaud Governor Cuomo for his commitment to MTA's future health.
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.
On Thursday, September 24 Assemblyman Farrell met in the District Office with representatives of Families for Excellent Schools to discuss their vision for education in New York City schools.
Farrell recently met with Families for Excellent Schools to discuss education programs for children who live in low-income communities of color.
Part of this discussion centered on a report prepared by these parents, which offers data that may show that in many cases it is difficult even for high-achieving students of color who grow up in low-income neighborhoods to earn a place in an excellent middle or high school in the City.
According to their report, which uses data collected by the Department of Education but offers no suggestions or solutions, in most cases only a handful of students from schools in low-income neighborhoods go on to attend a top middle or high school that adequately prepares them for higher education.
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Welcome back! I hope that you had a wonderful summer, and that you and yours are happy and healthy. During the summer, I have been spending a lot of time in the District working on traffic and pedestrian safety issues, talking to people in the community about their concerns, and working on several major projects which are finally coming together after many years of hard work. I will tell you more about these projects in a bit. But first…
Meet the 2015 Herman D. Farrell, Jr. Scholarship Winners!
Every year, the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators raises money during its' Caucus Weekend and gives each of its' members $2,000 to pass along to worthy and hardworking students from our community in support of their educational goals.
Jennifer Baucicot (pictured below left), who graduated this June, participated in the Epic Theatre Ensemble and is pursuing an interest in the performing arts. I wish her great success in her future. Malik Bennett graduated from Gramercy Arts High School and plans to attend City College this fall to study computer science and psychology. He, like myself, believes in harnessing the power of technology and education to achieve a better quality of life for all. Zyare Robinson (pictured below right) is also pursuing an interest in the arts; singing, in her case. She has been accepted to attend Virginia State University, where she is enrolled for the fall semester.
Please join me in congratulating these outstanding young people, and wishing them the best in their future endeavors!
Construction on 151st Street Pedestrian Footbridge Has Begun
DOT Plan Calls for Three Trees to be Planted for Each Tree Removed
As you may have seen, the construction phase of the long-awaited pedestrian footbridge into Riverside Park at 151st Street and Riverside Drive has finally begun. This project, for which $20 million in State funding was provided by Governor Cuomo to construct the footbridge, which is one part of a decades-long, multi-part accessibility project that myself and others have worked very hard on for a number of years.
The steep hills that surround the Park make accessing the waterfront a tricky, or even dangerous, prospect. Long ago, there was a bridge that brought pedestrians into the Park near this site, but the bridge fell into a state of disrepair and was removed decades ago. In 2007, we succeeded in having a pedestrian ramp into the Park built at 158th Street, so that pedestrians, people with disabilities, bicyclists and families with baby carriages could safely and easily enter the Park.
In 1996, I began to explore the possibility of having a pedestrian footbridge built from Riverside Drive into Riverside Park at 153rd Street. Funding for this project became part of the State's 2003-2005 Capital Plan, but the project became tied up in New York City red tape and never went forward. However, several years ago, the change of administration in City Hall and other factors finally allowed us to move forward.
According to the construction contract, the company building the bridge must complete it by the end of 2016. The contract also has provisions that ensure that our public space will be preserved and even improved in several important ways. DOT's plan preserves access to the Park's parking area, and a nearby dog park will be restored.
Earlier in the summer I was approached by a constituent who was concerned that the contractor would remove but not replace a number of trees near the construction site. He and I met with representatives of DOT at the site, where we learned that only a few trees would be removed during construction. Further, the contract specifies that the builder must plant three new trees in the park for each tree that is removed.
As always, you can check my Assembly Web site for the latest news. Enjoy your Labor Day.
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Farrell addresses questions relating to changes in the Gap Elimination in the Assembly Budget Proposal. E.203