Good afternoon and welcome to The Point.
Listening in on our phone call with Amtrak
Newsday’s editorial board spent more than an hour on the phone Wednesday morning with representatives from Amtrak, including President and Chief Executive Charles “Wick” Moorman and Vice President Stephen Gardner. It was a wide-ranging conversation that touched on East Side Access, the Gateway Tunnel, Amtrak’s plans for intensive track repairs, and the management of Penn Station.
Moorman and Gardner offered board members the opportunity to meet in person and get an up-close look at the track network that’s been at the heart of the recent extensive delays, overcrowding and headaches, particularly for Long Island Rail Road commuters. We plan to take them up on that offer next month.
Moorman emphasized that the most important factor in making repairs and keeping the trains running is not money — it’s time. And Moorman said he knew just how disruptive coming track work will be. But at this point, he said, there’s no other option.
“If we don’t get in there and get the work done as soon as possible, we run additional risks that we’re going to have more incidents and more unplanned disruptions,” Moorman warned.
So, this summer, Amtrak plans to close multiple tracks at Penn Station for weeks at a time, potentially reducing train service by as much as 25 percent. The effort comes amid increasing criticism of Amtrak and calls to privatize Penn Station, which is under Amtrak’s control.
That makes this summer critically important, not only to commuters and to Penn Station, but also to Amtrak.
“Amtrak has to perform,” Moorman said. “We’ve got to execute this summer, and that’s our highest priority right now.”
Randi F. Marshall
Get ready for more turmoil in Hempstead.
Voters in the school board election Tuesday turned out incumbent Melissa Figueroa, a member of the board’s three-person reform majority who was arrested Thursday night on a marijuana charge she referred to as a “setup.”
Voters instead elected newcomer Randy Stith, a 26-year-old emergency room technician and volunteer firefighter. More important, Stith is widely considered to be allied with board members David Gates and LaMont Johnson, who have consistently opposed efforts by the reform team to improve the struggling district.
Now it’s expected that this newly constituted majority will attempt to reverse the hiring of new Superintendent Shimon Waronker, a reformer with a reputation for turning around troubled and sometimes dangerous New York City schools.
Waronker — who was given a four-year contract at $265,000 a year by a 3-2 vote on the same night Figueroa was arrested — is scheduled to start July 1. That’s the same day Stith joins the school board. Which could mean Waronker ends up being Hempstead’s shortest-serving schools chief. That’s saying a lot, given that the district has changed superintendents the way fashion models change clothes.
Bumper sticker regrets
City dwellers and suburbanites agree
State Sen. José Peralta of Queens introduced legislation last week to allow more speed cameras in NYC. Legislation to do the same followed from Manhattan Assemb. Deborah Glick. The issue is near and dear to transportation safety advocates like Mayor Bill de Blasio, who often touts his Vision Zero commitment to reducing traffic fatalities.
Yet speed cameras tend to get visceral reactions from all over the state, even from some people who might otherwise agree with safety improvements. De Blasio got a taste of that Tuesday night at a town hall in the Borough Park-Midwood area of Brooklyn. The mayor was roundly booed when he said cameras were not about making money.
For drivers everywhere, no urban-suburban divide on this issue.
Mark ChiusanoThis is The Point, the editorial board’s daily newsletter about New York politics. Click here to subscribe.