Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rebuilding New York?

Well, Not So Fast

You see the signs along the roadways -- mostly north of the City, and certainly nowhere on Long Island, where roadways barely qualify as such --REBUILDING NEW YORK.

Ever notice how long it takes to rebuild anything in New York?

Assuming an infrastructure project gets started -- which can take years, in and of itself -- nothing ever seems to get finished.

Locally, one need only to drive along the highways and byways, or, if you really want a jolt, to sally forth along our residential streets.

No paving with the proverbial gold here.

More globally, yet only twenty miles or so to the west, all you have to do, perhaps dispairingly so, is to look down at Ground Zero, where "rebuilding" means going on eight long years of staring into a gigantic hole. Now we're being told that the project may not be completed in time for the tenth anniversary of 9/11, which would be, er, let us think -- oh yeah, in 2011.

Okay. There's the emotional factor. And, yes, financial considerations. But come on, folks, almost eight years post 9/11 and little progress in rebulding the financial center of the world.

Oh no. Let's quibble over a name. Freedom Tower. World Trade Center. How about "huge hole in the ground," and leave it at that? FT. WTC. WTF? Who gives a hoot what they call it (other than Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, who has to stick in her two cents -- or was that our two cents -- everywhere)?

Just build the darn thing already!

Nothing emboldens our enemies more than our failure to pick ourselves up, stand on our own two feet, and get moving again.

We are reminded of those old WWII flicks, where the enemey would blow up a bridge, and, by the time the smoke had cleared, the Allies had rebuilt that bridge. Take that, you Axis of Evil!

New York needs to get moving, get building, and get it done.

Perhaps some of that stimulus money toward a modern-day Work Projects Administration.

If not a New Deal for New York, then certainly, a new foundation.
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The following letter appeared in the Malverne-West Hempstead Herald. It pertains to local initiatives, but clearly, its message is universal:

Waiting For Godot?

To the Editor:

There is movement, swift and deliberate, and movement, immeasurable and barely at a snail's pace.

The latter would appear to be the modus operandi for both town and county vis-a-vis infrastructure projects such as the reconstruction of Hempstead Avenue, the revitalization of Hall's Pond Park, and, yes, even the much-celebrated sale, closure, and demolition of the infamous Courtesy Hotel.

If movement is perceptible here, it is certainly not to the naked eye!

With respect to the Hempstead Avenue project, we'll soon be reaching the one year mark since shovel hit pavement, and one can only presume that the contractors are being paid by the hour -- or maybe by the minute. Sure, the reconstruction was started in the fall, rather than early spring, but who would think winter weather would interfere with road work here in New York?

The rehab of Hall's Pond Park has yet to begin (how many years after the passage of the Environmental Bond Act?), it, too, slated for a fall start date, with completion anticipated in about a year after that. [Of course, if the County intends to maintain the newly revitalized park as it does Hall's Pond presently (which is to say, not at all), why bother throwing good money after bad?]

And then there's the Courtesy.

It was months ago, back in 2008, after a battle of more than a decade, that Hempstead Town finally gave its stamp of approval to the rezoning of the parcel upon which the Courtesy sits.

Now, we are told that Trammell-Crow is expected to receive all necessary approvals (from Town and County) by the summer of 2009, with the sale of the property (and with it, one again presumes, the closure of the hotel) to occur by September or October. Demolition, and construction of the rental units, to follow, hopefully in relatively short order (weather permitting). So we tack on a few more months to this project and to that initiative, and, like the patient saints we, the people, are, we wait -- and wait, and wait.

Just how long do the taxpayers of Nassau County and Hempstead Town have to wait until projects, many on the drawing board for what seems like eons, are started, no less completed?

We're not talking about massive undertakings, such as the Lighthouse Project, which one would expect to take a bit longer (though never this long). We're talking about rebuilding a roadway, revitalizing a park, and demolishing a no-tell hotel which, everyone agrees, must go.

I recall being a legislative intern up in Albany during the winter of 1976. The legislative complex in downtown Albany was nearing completion, and the legislators needed a roadway to connect the Thruway to downtown. Overnight, if not literally, then, surely, within weeks, an intricate and elaborate system of interchanges, bridges, and connecting roadways -- sewers, lighting, and all -- was in place. This in the dead of an Albany winter!

If they could get it done quickly in Albany in 1976, then why not in Hempstead Town and Nassau County in 2009? True, our local officials can bypass the Avenue, forgo a stay at the Courtesy, and simply turn their heads as they pass West Hempstead's passive park. As for the rest of us, taxpayers all, "they also serve who sit and wait!"

Seth D. Bykofsky
West Hempstead, NY

The writer, waiting impatiently in Nassau County and Hempstead Town going on twenty-five years, is a former president of the West Hempstead Civic Association, and co-founder of The Community Alliance.

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