Category Archives: Infrastructure

Getting Around in New York City

Transportation issues in New York City are nothing new.  Parking is horrendous; driving is awful and the subway has never gotten the best rep.  But now a recent report has found that approximately one third of New Yorkers do not even live within walking distance of a subway stop.  Plus, this issue seems to fall overwhelmingly within lower-income concentrated neighborhoods like Brooklyn and northeast Queens.

NYC’s transportation problem is not limited to the subway.  Dockless bike and scooter firm Lime also commissioned a study and its conclusions were similar in that again it is the poorest neighborhoods taking the fall for lack of viable transportation options.  With Lime, Bird has been lobbying officials in the city to improve micromobility.  And Lime is arguing that if e-scooters became legal, this would improve the mobility of 1.5 million New Yorkers, providing them with much better access to local transit.  With a scooter, they could actually be a mere 10 minutes away from subway stations.

There have been some strides though in this area.  In 2018 an endeavor was taken by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) to introduce a dockless bike share program in underserved areas via Citi Bike.

And in other transportation news for the city, we are about to witness the end of the MetroCard.  Plans from the MTA include the testing of a new fare payment system, dubbed OMNY – One Metro New York in an effort to enable New Yorkers to “experience all that the region offers.

New York Transit System: Who Will Pay?

NYC Transit

The New York transit system has been in need of an overhaul for some time now.  to fix it however, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is short of around $60 billion.  that figure is actually twice of its current capital plan and so the question becomes what will happen with the much-needed renovations?

a commission has been set up to take this to the next level. chaired by head of the business-backed Partnership for New York City, Kathryn Wylde, the group commissioned a report that – surprise, surprise – requested more revenue.  Most of the commissioners (who also include former City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Vierito), suggested a kind of toll to be applied to truck and car drivers going into Manhattan below 60th Street causing congestion.  this would actually raise $1b+ annually. 

Although this situation is hardly new.  going back a decade ago now, a 2008 commission was set up that recommended MTA funding sources.  that resulted in the 2009 payroll tax.  since then 10 percent of MTA’s $16.7 billion budget comes from New York downstate employees indirect tax.

So what is new?  The most recent report gave a whole slew of suggestions, one of which was to “acknowledge that the M.T.A. construct has failed and call for its dissolution.”  should that not be acceptable, another way to increase efficiency that was suggested was to hire an independent auditor to investigate capital costs of the MTA and thereafter reform its methods and streamline how orders are changed during the construction process.  in addition, there is a lot of money lost in fare evasion each year.  stamp down on that and you’ve gotten yourself $125 million extra annually.

These are just some of the 37 suggestions featured in the report. It’s definitely worth a try.

New York City and Disability Infrastructure

New York City’s disabled are fighting for better wheelchair access on the streets. As such, they will participate in the third annual Disability Pride Parade. Problematic issues include: the subway (only 25% of 472 stations are wheelchair accessible); elevators in general (fix problematic ones, maintain existing ones and build new ones, while updating info on new app); fix and improve Access-A-Ride (which enables disabled users to get rides without making reservations/shared rides and is cheaper); continue to improve on cab-wheelchair accessibility (which is due to be halved in the next 2 ½ years) and more.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom.  According to the recently published Performing Disability. Dance. Artistry report, found that:

“the dance makers found New York City newly brimming with opportunity for disability arts, spurred in part by a growing advocacy movement, engaged government leadership, an expanding pool of interested funders, and effective promotion and program development furthered by Dance/NYC and partners such as Disability/Arts/NYC Task Force.”

However, there is still much work to be done since the report also found that:

“participants experienced significant barriers to successful performances, from inaccessible facilities and transportation options to extreme financial demands placed on disabled touring artists and subtleties of audience engagement.”

Moving to Manhattan

While people often steer clear from New York City and its environs for business headquarters, that might be changing.  One example is Discovery Communications, a Maryland-based operation that will be moving to Manhattan in the latter part of 2019. Having just signed on a new transaction (the purchase of Scripps Networks Interactive for $12 billion) it is seemingly now taking its business to the next level by centralizing its headquarters.

And it’s not just businesses.  Leisure is getting an upgrade too with the new Pier 17 in Lower Manhattan is looking to become one of the top summer destination spots for locals and visitors alike. The reason Executive Chef at Heinken Riverdeck David Kornell set up shop there was because he had an idea about all the people docking from the boats and ships and figured it would make a great choice for a global menu.

Right now the rest of Pier 17 remains under construction but it won’t be long until its graced with a variety of eateries and stores, including one by David Chang (founder of Momofuku) and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s food hall.

 

 

 

NYC’s Digitalized Evolution

A century ago, one of the things New York City had a good reputation for was its infrastructure.  Just looking at its water tunneling and reservoir systems, one could immediately tell that there was good, solid work done on the city’s infrastructure. At the time, that was very important to quality of life and popularity of such a large, cosmopolitan city.

But the 21st century changed the way we look at infrastructure and it is unclear as to how much NYC changed with it.  Due to digitalization of the economy, building infrastructure is not the big name, but rather data infrastructure is.  And it appears that NYC is not keeping up with its Silicon Valley counterparts.

When it comes to business and corporations, New York has it all.  It gets mentioned in Fortune 500 and Forbes articles and is a hub for business development.  But when you look at the start-up industry it seems like it is just not “all that” and when comparing it to Silicon Valley it has almost been an embarrassment.

It is not all doom and gloom though.  Things do seem to be changing with their up-and-coming firms which are taking quite a chunk of the market share.  In addition there is an increasing number of startups with core technological aspects which are focused on the creation and development of enterprise infrastructure and apps that have traditionally been lacking so much in the area. And thus authors of this article believe that there is now a “changing exit environment for startups in NYC, the rise of a set of mafias which are incubating startups, and the changing culture of customers and how that is assisting NYC startups with their competition out west.”

NY Utility Companies

An investigation is being undertaken into how New York’s major utility companies have responded to the loss of power to close to 600,000 homes/businesses in the northeast earlier this month. Also being considered is the groundwork that was embarked upon prior to the events.

Seven utility companies are being inspected. They have all been notified by the Public Service Commission of this. there were two utilities that received the bulk of the criticism due to the amount of time it took to restore power following the snow storms of March 2nd and March 7th with some people being without power for up to 10 days.

Cuomo said he was “not satisfied,” calling the situation “wholly unacceptable. These storms have now become the rule rather the exception. They have to have the capacity to quickly restore power.”

Do We No Longer ‘Love New York’?

The NY Federal Government requested Cuomo’s administration to remove the ‘I Love NY’ road signs which threatened to cost taxpayers a $14 million penalty.  Now that it has been decided the campaign has finally “run its useful course,” a new tourism initiative will replace this one in time for summer.

According to a joint statement put out by Acting Transportation Commissioner Paul Karas and Thruway Authority Director Matthew Driscoll:

“Since the Governor initiated this branding effort, the number of tourists to New York State has increased by 18 percent and the direct economic impact of tourism on the State has skyrocketed by more than 20%.”

In addition, according to NYC & Co Spokesman Chris Heywood there was an increase in arrivals to NYC from the 2016 number of 60.5 million to 61.8 million in 2017.  This increase was put down to being driven “primarily by domestic U.S. tourism” (which could be put down to the I ❤️ NY signs?).

A bit further afield state officials are looking toward North County to get a tourism grant.  $13 million in capital funding has been earmarked by Cuomo to build new lodging properties in northern New York and last year a task force was set up to organize a model for successful lodging development in an effort to bolster tourism.  The money will be targeted specifically to the Thousand Islands and Adirondack regions.

 

Mobilizing New York

New York City has always been “the place to be,” in so many spheres:  entertainment, business, lifestyle and more.  But, all of that comes at a price.  And it seems that one of the biggest price tags is transportation and mobility.

According to a recent article in Crain’s New York by Scott Rechler, there are many things that can be done.  Move New York’s has already started this process with a logical congestion pricing plan created by transportation experts.  Other ideas include bringing in a traffic management strategy to lower tolls on overnight deliveries while increasing them during peak time.

In general, Rechler believes there needs to be a more efficient use of the transportation infrastructure that is already in place, such as taking greater advantage of traffic-enforcement cameras (which can be relatively easily installed) and invoking more radical fines for roadway misdemeanors.

New York Office Renovations

Additional reporters are being hired in Fox News’s New York office, as a response to the increase in need in the digital journalism field. 1211 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan will undergo some reconstruction to accommodate this.  one floor at the Newsroom’s headquarters will become open-space for journalists, bringing them up from the basement.  This will result in editors and reporters being “brought out into the open” as it were.

According to Rupert Murdoch the initiative represents a “major investment in the future of FOX News,” adding that it indicates his personal “unwavering confidence” in the company.  Any kind of current internal politics that is being discussed (such as the ousting of FOX News’ co-founder and chairman Roger Ailes) is therefore not an issue, with this action.

Meanwhile, at the Yonkers Public Library renovations are set to begin.  A while ago it was realized that the project had to be undertaken, given the fact that concrete panels were really falling apart – something that had two-to-three decades in the making – and were now posing a safety threat! Work is now slated to begin on this by the summer; the focal part being the front of the building and part of the southern side – in the children’s library.  Phase two will require a borrowing from the city of $2.4 million, required for the building’s north and back sections.

NY: The Economics of Infrastructure

$2 billion may seem like a lot for infrastructure (and it is) but given that New York is in some serious need of an upgrade for its water and sewer systems, that is hardly anything.  Indeed, experts believe that it is likely to cost around $80 billion.

This proposal by Gov. Cuomo is in addition  to the $200 million that was approved in 2016 by lawmakers for water projects in the region.  Despite this, the proposal is garnering support from both parties due to the fact that many of the water systems have been wearing out for some time already (one example being that almost 1,500 water main breaks were encountered by The Erie County Water Authority in 2015). Indeed, it has been estimated that 20 percent of NYC’s treated water which goes into municipal pipes encounters a leak before it gets to the faucet which is becoming an increasingly problematic situation. Maintenance and repair is crucial now before the situation worsens.

One problem is however, as Steven Cohen, Executive Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute asks:

“The structure of the public-private deal or partnership is critical, but again, the central issue remains, who pays? People resist paying for resources that once were free. Before this country became modern and urban, many people were able to get water for free from their own wells. They managed their waste in septic fields and compost heaps, and the occasional garbage fire. Now they pay for water, sewage treatment and waste removal. They used to get their TV for free with antennas, now they pay monthly Internet and cable bills. Life has become more complicated and more expensive and our incomes have not kept pace with the increased cost of everything. It’s easy to understand why people resist paying for the modernization of infrastructure. But it can’t be avoided for much longer. A progressive fee system for privatized infrastructure needs to be considered as part of the way to help the working poor and people on fixed incomes to bear the cost of infrastructure upgrades.”

He answers: “The issue is how payment for the infrastructure is set up and how the government maintains control to ensure accountability if the private firm does a lousy job.”

Let’s hope the bill is sorted out in time for New Yorkers to get safe water in their homes.