Monday, December 22, 2014

Justice. Only Justice Shall Thou Pursue

I learned about the execution style killing of two NYPD officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, in Brooklyn while at a family gathering, and it is heartbreaking to learn under any circumstances.

These officers were doing their jobs, trying to reduce crime in a high-crime area of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn they weren't even from the local precinct but  rather called in from other parts of the city to help. The man who killed them had an agenda that had nothing to do with protests or protesters; he had a lengthy criminal record and had shot and nearly killed his girlfriend before coming up to NYC to engage in more mayhem.

But NYPD supporters who ignore all that ails the Department and that there are bad officers in their midst, will try everything to link the killer to the protests. The PBA's Pat Lynch and others will try and blame the Mayor for the killings, claiming that the Mayor doesn't support the officers wholeheartedly and without reservations.

The problem is that there's no truth to the matter asserted. The Mayor does support the police. He also doesn't want anyone to tolerate criminal behavior by the police. He wants justice applied evenly and fairly. He has to warn his son (who is black) that police might not respect him or treat him properly because of the color of his skin, even if he does nothing wrong. That's not disrespecting the police; that's stating an objective fact. Police in NYC, and nationally, do engage in racial profiling and they do stop blacks far more often than whites when adjusting for per capita.

Justice. Only Justice Shall Thou Pursue. It's originally found in the Old Testament. It's a call for justice and to follow the law.

It's not just an empty slogan.

I've been referring to this belief quite frequently in the past several months, if only because it's become abundantly clear that there are some people who don't think that justice applies to everyone.

Some people believe that law enforcement is immune from being responsible for their actions that result in the death of unarmed people and particularly unarmed black men and children. This belief extends to the police and prosecutors who are supposed to uphold the law.

When the police and prosecutors fail to do their jobs properly, that harms everyone - it's a breach of the social compact that the police have with us. And they have to be responsible for their actions as well.

It's pitiful that the police boosters are trying to pin blame on people like Al Sharpton or Mayor DeBlasio for the shooting of the two cops; we don't hear these same voices blaming right wingers like Rush or Hannity when white supremacists and sovereign citizens use the same rhetoric and vitriol in stalking and targeting law enforcement. There, those people are categorized as lone wolfs and not representative of everyone else.

Personal responsibility.

It cuts both ways. It is ultimately the responsibility of the shooters and criminals who carry out these acts. It is also the responsibility for everyone to call out those who use extreme rhetoric.

Justice demands it.

The need to seek justice for those who are killed at the hands of police is not mutually exclusive with the need respect or to mourn their losses in such horrible circumstances. The NYPD has done heroic things, such as running into the burning WTC before it came crashing down on 9/11, and they've killed unarmed black men including Sean Bell, Eric Garner, and Amadou Diallo. They've sodomized Abner Louima, and the fight for justice continues. Good cops shouldn't stand to see their ranks sullied by those who violate the social compact, and yet that's exactly the message we get from their union leadership who blames the assassination on the mayor who represents an entire city, and not just a police union.

Justice demands it.

Cross posted at LGF.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fulton Center, 1WTC, and a Malfunctioning Scaffold

This past week was a busy one in Lower Manhattan. Fulton Center finally opened after years of delays and cost overruns. Parts of the station have been open for some time now, but the central feature - the oculus that lets light stream down into the heart of the station - is now revealed, and the escalators and other areas are now open. Upper floors, however, are still off limits as they wont open until businesses move into retail spaces on those upper floors.

The Fulton Center (previously called the Fulton Street Transit Hub), was meant to untangle and better connect a number of subway lines that were built at different times by different competing subway companies at the beginning of the 20th century. Some were built at different depths, and some cross over other lines in a tangle that would make Escher blush.

The MTA did manage to improve the flow between some of the key lines, including the A/C and the 4/5, so that's a big improvement.

What was left on the table is that while the oculus is already an architectural darling, the MTA could have used the space above the station to sell air rights that could help defray the costs for the station or permit construction of other capital projects elsewhere.

What follows is a series of photos taken around Fulton Center:

Interior as seen from Broadway and Fulton escalator bank

Arches and architectural detail of the Corbin building access to Fulton Center

Looking up at the Oculus

Retail space along the street level of the Fulton Center

Looking up and through the Oculus

Information bank at Fulton Center
After viewing Fulton Center, I walked over to the WTC memorial to shoot some more photos, and a dramatic sky didn't hurt either:

1WTC shrouded in breaking clouds. Note that scaffold on the south side. I'll come back to that later.

Yellow roses adorn the names of those who served in the military and died on 9/11 as part of Veterans' Day remembrances.

Looking towards the 9/11 Museum, the WTC transit hub, and 3WTC. Note that the spikes are nearly completely installed.

Still my favorite view of the WTC - looking up the South side of 1WTC. Note the window washing scaffold high up in the center of the photo. This photo was taken 12:41PM. I didn't know it at the time, but within minutes, that scaffold would suffer a major malfunction requiring a high level FDNY emergency rescue operation more than 600 feet in the air.

Scaffolds on the NW corner of 1WTC.

Scaffolds and a hatch to allow a scaffold to deploy for the lower floors.

The damaged scaffold dangling at a sharp angle; this was taken at 1:25PM, about an hour before the rescue was completed.
 The two men aboard the scaffold were rescued unharmed, and within 48 hours the window that had to be broken out to carry out the rescue had been replaced. The investigation into why the scaffold failed is underway.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Sandy Related Repairs to Affect LIRR and Amtrak Service for Years

New Yorkers have been trying to adjust to the new normal of MTA repairs to tunnels that were flooded by the storm surge from Superstorm Sandy. It included a 15-month closure of the Montague tunnel that affected many living in Brooklyn. There have been scattered closures to other tunnels and rerouted service elsewhere in the subway system, but now comes word that Amtrak is about to do its own remediation of the East River tunnels.

These tunnels service not only Amtrak, but LIRR and NJ Transit. They connect Penn Station with Long Island through the Sunnyside Yards and Harold Interlocking. Amtrak has to take two of the tunnels out of service for a year each. This will reduce the service capacity by 25% (1 out of four tunnels will be out of service at any time during the duration of the project that is expected to start next year).

The reconstruction will be similar to the work done on the Montague tunnels. It will include rebuilding the bench walls that include cable conduits for signals and power, plus railbed replacement and other work that can't be done while the tunnel is active.

The MTA and Amtrak were able to get service restored, but have been seeing an increased amount of service disruptions due to corrosion of equipment in the affected tunnels. That's why this full rehabilitation must get done.

But the East River tunnels are the easy part.

Amtrak has said that they must do the same with the Hudson River tunnels.

There are only two tunnels under the Hudson, and each are over 100 years old. They are functionally obsolete and need major rehabilitation, but that work can't be done until additional capacity is added.

After Gov. Christie cancelled the fully funded ARC tunnel project, that left a gaping hole in capacity expansion. Amtrak proposed a better project, Gateway, that would directly link in with NY Penn Station and allow through trains to run and high speed rail once service improvements elsewhere in the system are made.

Gateway is more than a decade away from seeing the light of day due to lack of funding. So New Jersey residents will be suffering with service delays for the foreseeable future.

Now some will point to Christie being short sighted in his cancellation of the project, but it was the right thing to do because NJ Transit has never met a capital project it couldn't complete overbudget and years after the scheduled deadlines. Cost overruns were likely to be in the $1-2 billion range, and even the FTA warned about the cost containment.

Gateway allows more capacity to the entire system - NJ Transit, Amtrak, and LIRR. ARC would have had limited capacity improvements for NJ Transit since the New York terminus was just that - a terminus. There was no place to store additional trains for rush hour, reducing actual customer capacity on the trains that would run to New Jersey.

The fact that we need to get additional capacity to allow for both growth in customer demand and to fix existing infrastructure is well established. What's missing is the lack of support in New York and New Jersey to find the funding for this critical work. That falls on both Gov. Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Both have shown indifference to mass transit and infrastructure beyond a few car-centric projects like the new Tappan Zee bridge in New York and the Pulaski Skyway rehabilitation and NJ Turnpike expansion projects in New Jersey.

This has to change in order to improve the economic competitiveness of the region against other world-class cities.


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