- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:

The Staten Island Advance on a proposal to build an aerial tram from Staten Island to Manhattan.

Sept. 14

It’s not pie in the sky. The proposal to build an aerial tram above New York Harbor from Staten Island to Manhattan is more than simply a big idea.

As put forth by the Staten Island Economic Development Corp. (SIEDC), the concept of a 5.7-mile transit link towering over the water is viable at least.

We need this kind of bold thinking in order to deal with the Island’s growing transportation challenges.

So it’s important not to be swayed by the fact that the city has all but dismissed the prospect of creating a cross-harbor tram to ease congestion in St. George.

It’s not because of technical factors.

After all, the city of Merida cable car in Venezuela is not only the highest in the world at 15,633 feet, but it is also the longest aerial tram at 7.8 miles.

The proposed harbor tram in New York is being questioned because it would duplicate the route of the Staten Island Ferry, which carries 70,000 people a day.

The city is always receptive to “bold proposals to expand transit options,” said Wiley Norvell, who is a spokesman for Mayor de Blasio.

“Tram technology has come a long way, and we think there’s more we can do with them in NYC,” Norvell said. “A tram like this could be challenging, though, because competing options like the ferry service the same routes, and are likely to be both faster and less expensive to ride.”

However, let’s not overlook other possibilities.

Perhaps an aerial tram from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge could link to a Brooklyn subway stop as a way to travel to Manhattan.

Could traffic be eased by constructing a tram on the North Shore from the area of the Bayonne Bridge to the site of the New York Wheel? It may be worth considering.

Calls to install a bus rapid transit connection along the route of the old North Shore rail line have yet to result in a sufficiently positive official response.

Back in July, Staten Island Rep. Daniel Donovan wrote to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen to urge full consideration of the proposal for a cross-harbor tram.

Mr. Donovan wrote: “The potential benefits to Staten Island and the City demand further analysis of this proposal, as would any viable alternative to the unacceptable status quo.”

We have long been urging city and Staten Island officials to find adequate ways to deal with the influx of traffic expected in the near future with the openings of the Wheel and Empire Outlets in downtown St. George.

According to SIEDC President and CEO Cesar Claro, “The only thing we know for certain is this: Every day, traffic gets a little worse on Staten Island and we’re not going to build any more tunnels or subways.”

For our part, we have warned repeatedly that the good that the borough hopes to see from all the new development would be undermined by turning the North Shore into a frozen zone of incessant traffic jams.

Traffic engineer Sam Schwartz, known as “Gridlock Sam,” has been hired by the Wheel and Outlets developers to seek ways to mitigate the problems.

He has recommended traffic-light improvements, re-striping new turn lanes, and expanding and extending existing streets to ensure better access.

But there is more to be done, of course.

The Department of Transportation has required that 10 intersections be studied, but only after the developments open. Which won’t ward off potential problems.

An indication of what’s to come is the planning being done by developers for parking.

Rich Marin of the New York Wheel is now seeking the OK for an enclosed parking garage with 950 spaces.

There is to be even more parking required for Empire Outlets and nearby Lighthouse Pointe, a new office, retail and rental complex in St. George.

Bold thinking and action will be needed to save the day.




The New York Daily News on building a better New York City Housing Authority

Sept. 14

They say no good deed goes unpunished- or, at the New York City Housing Authority, unprotested.

Long-suffering public housing tenants in East Harlem and downtown Brooklyn will, per a promising new plan, be getting desperately needed new bathrooms, kitchens, windows and much more.

Those interviewed by the Daily News greeted the planned fixes not with exultation, not with “tell us more,” but with withering attacks on the authority.

Help? How dare they!

“I think they’re trying to force us out,” accused one resident at the Wyckoff Gardens project in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

Said a Manhattan tenant leader of plans for the Holmes Towers on the Upper East Side: “They’re nuts. They’re absolutely insane.”

Tenants are up in arms because dead-broke NYCHA intends to pay for the overhauls by leasing land within each project to developers, who could build hundreds of new apartments at each site on the proviso that they would keep half the new units affordable.

NYCHA envisions turning underused parking lots and a playground (to be moved and rebuilt) into cash. A fine idea, as it was when the Bloomberg administration floated similar plans with a smaller share of affordable housing.

Anyone with a better plan for helping NYCHA begin to fill a $17 billion repair-budget hole had better pipe up now.

No, not you, Rep. Carolyn Maloney. Knowing full well that her Congress has for years starved NYCHA of repair funds, she nonetheless slammed the authority for stealing “light, air and playground space.”

Unhelpful. Because there’s no such thing as a NYCHA fairy who will pay to keep the authority’s aging buildings habitable.

NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye appears steeled to stay the course. Mayor de Blasio should stand solidly by her, ignore fear-mongering nay-sayers and make sure that an agency with a tradition of mismanagement gets this one right.




The Jamestown Post-Journal on the refugee crisis abroad and U.S. immigration policy.

Sept. 14

Reports of tens of thousands of people from Syria, Libya and other countries flooding into Europe as they attempt to escape strife at home have been all over the news for several days. Their stories tug at Americans’ heartstrings. Especially wrenching were pictures of the body of a 3-year-old child, washed up on a beach after he and his mother drowned in an attempt to reach Europe.

But what of the horrors many people trying to reach our country have endured? Have we so quickly forgotten how many children from Central and South America suffered crossing our southern border? How many tiny bodies lie in the deserts there, unseen by photographers or anyone else?

President Barack Obama reportedly is weighing what, if anything, the United States should do to provide humanitarian assistance to the immigrants in Europe. Of course, we will and should do something. That, really, is who we Americans are.

At the same time, we must not forget our own immigration problems. Our nation is struggling to deal with millions of illegal immigrants- as fairly and compassionately as we can. For years, immigration policy has been a haphazard affair rather than a carefully thought-out program.

We can help the immigrants in Europe, too. But we also should be getting our own house in order.




The Rome Daily Sentinel on Uber and drunken driving.

Sept. 12

It makes sense. Get drunken people out from behind the wheel and into cars piloted by sober drivers, and fewer people will be killed or injured in drunken driving collisions.

A new, independent study indicates that’s just what has happened since Uber started six years ago. It has made hiring a driver as easy as tapping on your smartphone. Similar ride-booking firms include Lyft and Sidecar. The study is by Brad Greenwood and Sunil Wattal of the Department of Management Information Systems at Temple University in Philadelphia. They found that, since “the entry of Uber into markets in California between 2009 and 2013, findings suggest a significant drop in the rate of (vehicular) homicides during that time.”

The study used data from the California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Report System. The data include “blood alcohol content of the driver (i.e. if alcohol was involved), the number of parties involved, weather, speed and other environmental factors.”

The Orange County Register says California data was chosen because Uber, headquartered in San Francisco, has operated there the longest, and the CHP data was excellent. The results: When Uber X, the basic service, launches in a city, alcohol-related vehicle deaths drop by an average of 3.6 percent. A major reason is because Uber X “provides significant cost savings over traditional taxi cabs.” However, there was no reduction in deaths with Uber Black, the company’s luxury service, which costs more and provides a professional “livery service” similar to that of limousine drivers.

So basically what happened is that Uber’s entrepreneurs, much like Amazon or Apple, created a new industry niche that did something cheaper than older competitors. In Uber’s case, lives actually were saved because the lower prices and easy smartphone interface encouraged tipsy people to shun their cars and hire a ride home.

The Temple University study should answer critics who contend that, because Uber is regulated less than taxis, it’s less safe. Of course, as with cabs or any service, abuses have occurred. But from now on, those seeking to thwart Uber’s expansion should be asked how many drunken-driving deaths and injuries justify halting progress.




The Gloversville Leader-Herald on the Iran deal.

Sept. 15

Especially when arms control treaties are involved, the devil really is in the details. There are plenty of them in President Barack Obama’s proposed deal over Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.

And it turns out the public is not being given all the information. Not even our elected representatives in Congress are privy to it.

While U.S., Iranian, Russian, Chinese, British, German and French negotiators were hashing out the primary agreement aimed at keeping “the bomb” out of Tehran’s hands, related talks were in progress. They involved Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is linked to the United Nations.

Two agreements were concluded between the IAEA and Iran. Obviously, because the IAEA prides itself on being the international body capable of preventing nuclear proliferation, its pacts have enormous bearing on Obama’s proposal. It is not too much to say that whether members of Congress approve of the president’s plan is tied firmly to what arrangements are in the IAEA pact.

But that agency’s head, Yukiya Amano, refuses to disclose texts of the two IAEA-Iran deals. He claims he has a “legal obligation” to keep them secret.

Says who? IAEA officials eager to make people believe they are doing a good job? Or Iranians even more focused on finding ways to cheat on all three pacts?

If there is a single deal-breaker in this whole mess, it may well be the IAEA.




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