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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Long Train (Not) Runnin'

Steve Zorn posted about the MTA's proposed "elimination of non-Stakes Belmont service" (and they're presumably not talking about the New York Stallion Stakes) via the Long Island Railroad over on his Business of Racing blog. He and NYRA's John Lee led the game opposition at a public hearing in Garden City.

"The LIRR would eliminate train service in a manner that impacts the least number of riders," according to the MTA's proposal. I don't know what the figures are for Belmont ridership, but it certainly can't be much, and I'm afraid that bottom line will ultimately trump the worthy arguments against the service elimination, should the Ravitch plan to bail out the MTA with payroll taxes and tolls on the East River bridges not be adopted (and the latter component of that plan has no shot). The proposed fare hikes, cutbacks, and job cuts are extensive, and they more prominently involve the city subway system. Their effects would be far more profound to far more people than those involving service cuts to Belmont.

So I'd say that the outlook is grim, at least in the short-term. But don't despair. Ultimately, the LIRR connection from Manhattan to Belmont will prove to be a powerful argument to bring slots to the track and additional redevelopment to the facility. Not only will the rail link survive, but the Belmont station will be renovated and cleaned and the tracks maintained so that the trains don't have to go like .2 MPH around that final turn for home over the Cross Island Parkway. In a more perfect world of course, NYRA would shake this off and instead lure stranded railbirds to one of their lavish OTB facilities in various parts of Manhattan. But that not being the case, attendance at the track will no doubt take a slight hit for the time being.

- Governor Paterson is getting absolutely reamed by the press over the manner in which he conducted his Senate selection process, and some seem to be writing his political obituary. NY Times' columnist Maureen Dowd called him a "goof-ball," the Daily News' Mike Lupica, who doesn't seem to know much more about politics than he did about sports, labeled him as "phony," and says he'll be "one term and out." And the NY Post, who attacked Spitzer with a kind of venom that was extraordinary even for them, claims that: we miss Client 9 in one of the most hilarious editorials I've seen in a while,. Gimme a break.

One can certainly criticize the governor for taking too long, and for thinking out loud too much and too often. But c'mon, it was the press itself who turned this thing into a circus, with its obsession with Caroline Kennedy's bid, its focus on meaningless polls, and its unrelenting questioning and probing of the governor's intentions. I think we were just seeing Paterson's folksy and irreverent style in response, and I don't believe it will ultimately have any effect whatsoever on his reelection prospects. His electoral fate will ultimately be determined by his handling of the budget negotiations over the next few months, and this messy affair will become a distant memory.

Where Paterson really did go wrong was the critical remarks about Ms. Kennedy that "leaked" from his office after she withdrew. Although he's now attempting to deny his involvement, Elizabeth Benjamin had reported in the News that one of his paid consultants was behind it all; Fred Dicker calls him a liar. I think that this criticism is all completely valid, and that Paterson screwed up here. But, while not defending his actions, who can blame the governor for being pissed off? And for trying to make it clear that he wasn't going to pick her anyway? He would have been a goof-ball in my eyes if he had. Far too many people had far too many things to say about Ms. Kennedy, and statements by people like Bloomberg's aide Kevin Sheekey that he was nearly obligated to pick her if the state wanted a piece of the bailout pie, were way beyond the were implications to that effect like her endorsement by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. So I find his desire to push back to be completely understandable, if totally misguided. Paterson didn't at all need to condone leaks from his office to the effect that she wasn't qualified for the job - she clearly demonstrated that herself.

And by the way, Josh Isay, the consultant who did such a masterful job running Ms. Kennedy's "campaign" into the ground, was rewarded with a new gig. I'm telling you man, I'm in the wrong business...


El Angelo said...

This was vaguely hinted at on another blog by another person, but the Floral Park LIRR stop is about a mile away from Belmont Park. If they think attendance is really going to drop because the train station's closing, why not look into getting a few buses to act as shuttles from the station to the track? They would pay for themselves.

Anonymous said...

The problem with Floral Park is it runs on a regular LIRR schedule which may not be convenient for getting to the track on time or getting home in a timely way. I do not want to miss a train at Floral Park and have to wait an hour in the rain for the next train.

Maybe the LIRR can use the savings from the Nassau OTB auto fleet or from the story below to save train service to Belmont.

ALBANY, N.Y. - A high-ranking state official who was listed as an employee of two New York agencies at once failed to take time off from one position while doing work for the other, according to an audit issued Monday by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

DiNapoli says John Cansdale was paid $24,000 a year as general counsel for the Olympic Regional Development Authority while also getting $146,699 as executive director of the state Racing and Wagering Board.

El Angelo said...

jk: You're not wrong, but as it's currently constituted, the Belmont train leaves, I believe at around the time of the 6th race (why?) and supposedly 30 minutes after the final race, though it usually departs later than that. The Floral Park option really isn't much worse.

Alan Mann said...

>>Maybe the LIRR can use the savings from the Nassau OTB auto fleet or from the story below to save train service to Belmont.

Or maybe some of Ms. Novello's former employees can personally shuttle patrons to and from the track now that they're not driving her 300 miles from Albany to catch a plane at Newark. Is there anyone honest in our state government anymore?

Anonymous said...

Has the MTA's budget been adjusted for the huge DECREASE in fuel prices?

The high cost of fuel was prominent in their pitch for a bail out, all silent now.

The Real Estate transfer taxes are paid even on foreclosure, so its not like they are going away completely.

As we all know, all of these agencies lack transparency and refuse demands for independent audits.

They are out of control political creatures that should be privatized, but hey, that idea had no shot even in the good old days when the USA believed in capitalism.

Anonymous said...

It is sad when NYRA has to raise the takeout to support OTB bloat and double dipping NYSRWB execs while basic services to race fans are cut. Mr. Heyward has to do a better job taking care of his cutomers.

Anonymous said...

Why can't the LIRR run one train per day instead of two? Then nobody could argue that they can't get there, they'd just have one train to make instead of two. And for the whiners, there is the subway and the bus. Sure, it takes longer, but the MTA could run a series of express Q110 buses, which runs from the last stop of the E train. There are many options. Right now, the LIRR is not all that convenient, and it is $11 RT, while the bus and subway is $4 RT, less if you buy a metrocard and receive a discount. People who take public transportation complain, but it's usually faster than driving, and you can handicap on the way. I just bought a car because I'm moving out of Manhattan soon, and I drove to Aqueduct for the first time on Jan. 1. While it only took 20 minutes, no traffic, which was great, I still had to park and it was crowded so there was a walk, and I could not handicap on the subway the way I usually do. As it is, last year, the LIRR left before the end of the last race, twice during my sparse attendance, several people called and they sent a train back to pick up the stranded hundredes, and we got back to Manhattan at dusk. DUSK. In JULY!

Things change, people get things wrong, and then sometimes they get them right, and even better than they were.

Gene Kershner said...

@jk: don't believe everything you read. Mr. Cansdale had an ethics ruling to work both jobs and was actually saving the state money by performing in-house counsel services at rates that would be much less than contracting out the service to an outside firm. Finally you have a government employee who actually works more than your typical govt 9-5 and he got caught up in a political witch hunt by the comptroller's office.

Anonymous said...

I'll toss this here as this entry cited the New York Post's whine for the return of Client 9.

It's interesting that the whistleblower no one listened to on Bernie Madoff but was the star testimony to Congress on the SEC's failure actually gave it all to Elliot Spitzer - but he ignored it.

Harry Markopolos remarked to Congress, quote

"In one of his precautionary measures, Markopolos said he wore gloves while putting together a dossier on Madoff and traveled to the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston to anonymously give it to Eliot Spitzer, who was then New York’s attorney general. Spitzer took no action, he said."

Looks like Eliot could've exposed one of the biggest frauds of his career before being Governor and missed it too.