Archive for January 2022

Will the MTA ever recover? – By George J. Marlin

January 26, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, January 24, 2022 on The Island Now’s website:

The Metropolitan Transit Authority continues to face a multitude of management, operational and fiscal problems.

The ongoing COVID crisis, as well as the lax criminal justice system, cost overruns, delayed project completions, electrical grid failures, closures due to Hurricane Ida flooding, ransomware hackers breaching the MTA’s time-clock provider and never-ending overtime abuses are just a few of the issues the MTA has had to grapple with.

The latest COVID variant, Omicron, is not helping the transit situation. Many private sector employees who had returned to the office are back working remotely at home.

Subway ridership that had recovered somewhat to 50 percent of pre-pandemic numbers dropped to 40 percent in early January.

City COVID regulations requiring COVID vaccination cards to be checked before entering restaurants, I have learned anecdotally, have also kept people from traveling into New York City.

A Park Avenue restaurant I have been frequenting for over 25 years was packed on Thursday nights back in December. But not last Thursday when I dined there. Out of 50 tables, only five had customers.

The MTA’s problem child is the New York City transit system.

Subway crime continues to rise. In November 2021, for example, the daily average robberies increased to 2.9 from 1.3. Major felonies jumped from 3.8 to 7.8.

Total number of robberies in November were 88 compared to 39 in November 2020.

The day after Christmas there was a rash of crimes in the subway system. Four attacks were reported. A subway conductor was attacked, a woman was stabbed, an innocent bystander was pushed onto subway tracks, and gunshots were fired by a man who provoked a verbal dispute with several people waiting for a train.

On Saturday, January 10, a vagrant claiming “I am God and I can do it” shoved a woman to her death in front of an oncoming subway train. The victim was the sixth person thrown onto the tracks in the past 12 months.

Manhattan Institute analyst Nicole Gelinas has reported that “violent crime in the subways is still more than twice as high per rider as it was in 2019. The victims are random, but the perpetrators are not. The same hardcore class of criminals (and untreated mentally ill) just have fewer people underground to prey upon.”

And then there is the issue of fare beaters. Since beat cops were told in 2019 not to pursue them because district attorneys refuse to prosecute, subway fare evasion has more than doubled. In 2020, the MTA reported that 13 percent of riders jumped the turnstile versus 6 percent in 2019. (Some suggest the actual numbers could be as high as 18 percent.)

This phenomenon is costing the MTA annually more than $300 million in lost revenues.

Transit services have been scaled back thanks to the Omicron COVID variant. The New York Times reported on Jan. 7 that “on any given day this week, 21 percent of subway conductors, about 1,300 people—have been absent from work….” In addition, 25 percent of the 12,000 bus operators were out sick.

The work shortage has forced the MTA to reduce subway schedules, to suspend service on three of the system’s 22 lines, and to cut bus schedules by 15 percent.

With subway, bus, LIRR and Metro North ridership expected to be well below pre-pandemic numbers, it is projected that the MTA will lose as much as $500 million in fare-box revenues this year.

And while the authority will fund more than $16 billion in deficits over the next three years with federal grants, those dollars are one-shot revenues that serve as stop-gap measures.

Once the federal funding runs dry, the MTA will face a desperate situation.

This helps explain why a report released by the state comptroller in December, “Capital Needs and the Resilience at the MTA,” noted that “the MTA is the engine that drives New York City’s economy, and it is running on borrowed time.”

Sadly, for the MTA to avoid “going off the rails,” riders starting in 2023 may be forced to pay huge fare and toll increases in return for declining services and maintenance.

Mainstream Media Is Undermining Our Democracy – By George J. Marlin

January 21, 2022

This article I wrote appeared on the web site on Friday, January 21, 2022.

Cuomo might run for governor again – By George J. Marlin

January 16, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, January 10, 2022 on The Island Now’s website:

Readers of my column know that during most of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s time in office I was one of his staunchest critics.

When he was first elected, I did agree to be the “conservative” voice on his transition team and on his Council of Economic and Fiscal Advisors. However, I was quickly disillusioned.

The man I thought would govern as a centrist quickly moved to the far left. He abandoned his solemn promise not to raise taxes and he promoted and signed into law extremist legislation on social issues that I opposed.

From his second year in office until he resigned in 2021, I maintained a “Cuomo Watch;” critiquing his fiscal, economic and social policies.

When accusations against Cuomo hit the papers—I was at first skeptical. I grew up with many Italians in Queens County and knew they hug and kiss—both men and women—particularly at family, social and religious gatherings.

I am not a hugger. But I have been hugged by both Mario and Andrew Cuomo. It’s part of their ethnicity.

But after reading the Report of Investigation into Allegations of Sexual Harassment by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo released by state Attorney General Letitia James on August 3, I concluded the governor may have pushed the “affection envelope” too far and was politically cooked.

I was reminded of the post-Watergate comment made by Richard Nixon during the famous May 1977 David Frost interview concerning his political enemies: “I gave them a sword. And they stuck it in. And they twisted with relish. And I guess, if I’d been in their position, I’d have done the same thing.”

I, like others, sort of enjoyed twisting the political sword into Cuomo. Many experienced what the Germans call “schadenfreude,” which means “joy over some misfortune suffered by another.”

When he resigned in late August 2021, I wrote at that time that his fall was inevitable. His ruthless approach to governing took its toll. He had few friends and a long list of enemies.

And when Albany Sheriff Craig Apple filed a criminal misdemeanor complaint against Cuomo for allegedly touching a female aide “for the purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires,” it fortified my belief that Cuomo had to depart.

Since that time, however, circumstances have broken in Cuomo’s favor.

In November, Albany District Attorney David Soares delayed Cuomo’s arraignment to January because the sheriff’s complaint was “potentially defective.”

As Cuomo waited to be arraigned, there were other developments: The district attorneys of Nassau and Westchester declined to prosecute him for any sexual harassment allegations.

Next, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office ended its investigation into Cuomo’s mishandling of nursing homes during the 2020 pandemic lockdown.

While there is no doubt in my mind that his wrongheaded policies caused the deaths of thousands of our seniors living in nursing homes, the DA’s office concluded “there was no evidence to suggest that any laws were broken.”

Then on January 4, Albany prosecutors moved in court to drop their case because there was not enough evidence to “meet our burden at trial.” Albany City Judge Holly Trexler granted the district attorney’s motion.

Looking back, despite his cries of innocence and unfair treatment, Andrew Cuomo had to leave office last year.

First and foremost, his political support collapsed.

The other reason: If he remained in office and was impeached and convicted, he would be unable to run for office ever again.

The New York State Constitution states: “Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, or removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any public office of honor, trust or profit under the state.”

But now with various charges dropped, a January 7 New York Times headline declared that “Some See a Possible [Cuomo] Comeback.”

Will he seek his old post? He certainly has the money in his campaign chest to finance a comeback. He may run to vindicate himself to spite his critics and to restore his family’s honor.

Such a move, in my judgment, would be a mistake. It would open old wounds and his enemies would have a field day sniping at him.

The brooding, angry, former governor must not let his pride cloud his thinking. Cuomo should be mindful of the Biblical proverb, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”