Summer 2004, p.19

Metropolitan News
Forgotten Brooklyn Mega Project Lurks in Background of Development Plans

The proposed Gowanus Tunnel would bury the aging Gowanus Expressway, allowing neighborhoods long divided by the hulking highway to reconnect and redevelop.
The proposed Gowanus Tunnel would bury the aging Gowanus Expressway, allowing neighborhoods long divided by the hulking highway to reconnect and redevelop.

After two years of work, the Gowanus Community Stakeholder Group (of which T.A. is a charter member) has presented its draft proposal for a new Gowanus Expressway in Brooklyn: a tunnel. This proposal was presented in a Town Hall meeting of all the communities in the Gowanus Corridor, extending from Brooklyn Heights to Fort Hamilton, at Brooklyn Borough Hall on June 28.

Though the decrepit Gowanus Expressway literally looms over them, Brooklyn residents may sometimes forget about the long standing community push to bury the expressway in a tunnel. After all, residents are currently consumed with responding to a myriad of development proposals for the area, and particularly the increased motor vehicle traffic that they would create. By comparison, the glacial fight to bury the Gowanus in order to reconnect long divided communities may not be sexy and immediate, but residents should pay close attention to the struggle because, with or without the upzoning, arena or IKEA, the Gowanus reconstruction process will divert significant numbers of motorists onto neighborhood streets.

The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) was forced to consider a tunnel alternative to the Gowanus after successful litigation by a coalition, including T.A., which gave rise to the Stakeholder Group. Recently, NYSDOT announced a plan to spend $344 million to re-deck sections of the existing Gowanus. This quick fix will further raise the cost of a rebuilt elevated highway; the tunnel, though initially more expensive, is the more cost effective long term solution because elevated highways must be completely rebuilt every 50 years.

Get involved with the Stakeholder Group; we need you! E-mail gowanus@transalt.org.

 


Manhattan

Traffic Truth for the West Side Stadium
It turns out the City might be a little optimistic in its projections of mass transit ridership to a new stadium on the West Side. Both NYPIRG and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign point to a study showing that only 30-40% of attendees of events at Madison Square Garden arrive by transit. The City claims that 70% of the new stadium’s patrons will get there by public transportation. Yet the Garden is far better served by transit including: subways, LIRR and NJ Transit - than would be the Jets stadium. “If any arena in New York should be getting big mass transit use from its patrons, it’s the Garden,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign director Jon Orcutt. “That it only gets about half of its customers riding transit suggests that a less accessible site will see a smaller transit share.”

NYPIRG and Tri-State Transportation Campaign


New York City

Subways that Run Themselves
New York City Transit workers are working hard to ready the L line for October when trains on the L line will essentially run themselves. Trains will be staffed with operators who will be in control of the trains until next May, at which time trains will move from station to station in fully automatic mode. The new system will allow the transit authority to squeeze 20 percent more trains onto its tracks, running 30 to 31 trains per hour on a typical line instead of 26, and permit the trains to operate at higher speeds, meaning less waiting time and shorter rides for passengers. A 2004 report card by the Straphangers Campaign rated the L as one of the twenty best subway lines in the city, with more trains scheduled to come per hour than the system average. However the same survey showed that the L was still more crowded than the system average, with only 29% of passengers having seats at peak hours, compared with an average of 44% seated passengers system-wide. Adding more trains will help to alleviate overcrowding. Stations will also have computer displays that will offer passengers real-time information about when the next train will arrive. Opponents of the new system are concerned about the safety of the technology, as well as the danger of removing staff from subway trains when trained professionals might be needed during an emergency situation. Proponents point to the success of computer driven subway lines in San Francisco, London and Paris.

NY Times and Straphangers Campaign


Tri-State Area

Fighting Sprawl
This summer anti-sprawl activists and those fighting against suburban style development in New York City will be speaking the same language. A new dictionary designed for everyone from grassroots activists to members of planning commissions hits bookstores and libraries this summer. A Field Guide to Sprawl is written by Dolores Hayden, professor of Architecture and American Studies at Yale University and illustrated with aerial photographs of the American landscape taken by Jim Wark. Ms. Hayden says she hopes the book will allow people to come up with a more powerful critique of sprawl and unrestrained growth by giving them the words to describe it.

Read the latest news on this subject.