In the aftermath of the Minnesota bridge collapse, the widespread subway flooding during last week’s thunderstorms and the Manhattan steam pipe explosion, Queens elected officials are calling for action.
This past weekend in two separate press conferences, Councilmen John Liu of Flushing and David Weprin of Hollis, along with Congressman Anthony Weiner, revealed their ideas for dealing with the city’s century-old infrastructure that includes decaying pipes, flood-prone subways, and outdated power lines.
Weiner and Liu called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to create cell phone service in the subway so passengers can dial 911 and the MTA can alert passengers about emergencies.
Weprin and City Comptroller William Thompson, called for the formation of a commission to study the city’s infrastructure.
“The biggest aim is to start off where the mayor’s 2030 plan left off,” Weprin said, adding that the current plan does not address immediate needs.
But the Mayor’s Office hasn’t reacted with enthusiasm to Weprin’s proposal. Stu Loeser, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said in a statement that the office has spent “300,000 hours” and the last year and a half on PlaNYC, “the master plan” for dealing with the burgeoning city. He added: “We don't need another commission to study the problems. We need funding for the solutions and we welcome any and all help in that area.”
In a phone interview on Tuesday, Weprin said the commission will not only identify problems, but also examine ways to secure funding for repairs.
He noted the 16-member commission will be composed of eight members appointed by the mayor and eight appointed by the City Council, with four representing engineers, architects and urban planners.
He believes that a combination of funding on city, state and federal levels, as well as private investment, can improve the city’s 840 miles of subway lines, for example.
Consolidated Edison has already been heavily chastised by elected officials for lack of utility line maintenance that led to a widespread blackout in Western Queens last summer and several smaller ones this year.
But spokesman Chris Olert said the agency is “willing to work with the council and other city bodies to work on infrastructure.”
The MTA declined to comment on the proposal, while Queens residents were divided on the importance of such a study.
One man from Ozone Park said he believes the city is already doing a good job.
“Every time I go over the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, they are always fixing it.”
An 85-year-old woman from Rego Park, who only gave her name as Kathleen, said since the bridge collapse in Minnesota, she worries about New York’s bridges.
“They charge enough to go over the bridges and tunnels, why isn’t it used to repair them?”
Leslie Brown, 63, was skeptical about the city acting on the commission’s findings. “It’s a good idea,” he said of the study, “but are they going to do it?” he asked about actually implementing the findings.