The Myrtle Avenue M Train Viaduct Rebuild is Complete, On Time and On Budget — Amazin’

MTA Photo 2 During 600w

The reconstruction of the M Train viaduct east of Myrtle Avenue. It was completed on time and on budget, an almost unheard of circumstance for MTA projects.

 

On time and under budget; a phrase sweeter to any project manager than anything ever written by Shakespeare, Wordsworth, or any poet ever. Astonishingly, it applies to the rebuild of the Myrtle Avenue M train viaduct in Bushwick and the Fresh Pond Bridge by the Queens terminus.

Myrtle Ave Viaduct drawing

This drawing shows the viaduct rebuild area and adjacent buildings.

 

For the past ten months or so, M train riders have been taking shuttle buses from the Broadway and Myrtle Avenue stop to the end of the line in Middle Village, Queens. This inconvenience was due to the reconstruction of the viaduct carrying the trains turning between Broadway and Myrtle Avenues just east of the Myrtle Avenue station and the rebuilding of the Fresh Pond bridge in Queens.

MTA Photo 4 Close PRoximity Before and AFter

Note the close proximity of residential buildings in these before and after shots of the reconstruction (facing opposite directions).

Both sections of the railway are over 100 years old, and both had the original track laid. No longer. There’s 600 feet of new track, 700 feet of new third rail, and new signals and electric cables. The project was due to be completed by the end of April, and sure enough, today, April 30th, the line reopened, at a cost within the $163 million budgeted. The MTA has a time-lapse video of the rebuilding on its Web site.

Because of the project’s close proximity to both residential and commercial buildings, people in those buildings had to be relocated during the endeavor. The MTA helped in their relocation and in fact paid the rent due on the apartments and stores while the tenants were out. Now that the project is complete, those tenants will be allowed home again.

That’s the good news. The bad news: At 12:24 p.m., approximately seven hours after it opened, the line suffered a severe service stoppage when a switch blew at the Myrtle Avenue station. Hours later, M train service was completely down from W 4th Street in Manhattan all the way out to Middle Village. Can’t anybody here play this game?

 


 

Flatbush’s “Little” Neighborhood War

Erasmus High Hall

Flatbush and Church Avenues, in the heart of both Little Haiti and Little Caribbean. Which will it be? (Image subject is Erasmus High School, which is not involved in the neighborhood designation dispute.)

 

As in all cities (and boroughs), New York’s immigrants, especially upon first arrival, have tended to congregate in specific neighborhoods, and in time these areas have become identified with the groups that have come together there. Those inside and out of each neighborhood often come to refer to it as Little X, such as Little Italy in Manhattan and Little Odessa here in Brooklyn. For those within the neighborhood, the moniker can be a source of ethnic or expat pride.

Little Caribbean map 350w

A map from the CaribBEING Web site showing the approved Little Caribbean neighborhood.

For the past six months or so, there has been a bit of a dustup going on in Flatbush, where local groups with the backing of Borough President Eric Adams and the Flatbush Nostrand Junction BID got approval last year to name the area along Flatbush Avenue from Empire Boulevard to Nostrand Avenue, an almost thirty-block stretch, Little Caribbean. Such approvals are given by the city council, and the Little Caribbean designation was apparently greenlighted by councilman Jumaane Williams’ office. That didn’t sit well with assembly member Rodneyse Bichotte, who, in a September 27th letter to Mayor De Blasio, asked to have the official designation put on hold. She is hoping to have a separate designation of a “Little Haiti” within the same area.

Bichotte, the first Haitian-American in the New York State assembly, says there had been conversations about a Little Haiti designation well before any for a Little Caribbean. However, a six-year-old organization called CaribBEING, led by founder Shelley V. Worrell, has been pushing the Little Caribbean agenda for going on three years. Bichotte claims that the Little Haiti name was first proposed a decade ago.

Little Caribbean w Little Haiti copy

This map shows the very unofficial boundaries of both Little Caribbean (in blue) and Little Haiti (in gray).

The affair heated up when a local community activist, Ernest Skinner, sent a public response via e-mail to Bichotte and other officials on both sides of the issue asking why there needed to be a Little Haiti separate from Little Caribbean. “When did Haiti stop being part of the Caribbean?” he asked, following that up with some disparaging remarks about the country and its historic place in the world and, more specifically, the West Indies. Bichotte demanded an apology and noted that Skinner’s remarks showed why Haitians often feel excluded from the Caribbean community and want their own separate designation within the Little Caribbean area. [Note: To our knowledge, no one associated with CaribBEING has taken any part in any name-calling.]

Councilman Williams appealed for a “more fruitful dialogue” and hopes to work with all involved to get designations for both Little Haiti and Little Caribbean. Bichotte, in her letter to the mayor, stated she and her Haitian supporters wanted the Little Haiti designation to be approved before that of Little Caribbean. The struggle continues.

“Little” neighborhood designations are all about national and cultural pride. So is the infighting. We’re all for national and cultural pride when it’s conducted in a positive way. Yet, throughout history, how many wars have been fought, how many people have died, over just these?

 


 

Cuomo Taps $$$ for Central Brooklyn Reno

Cuomo Taps $$$ for Central Brooklyn Reno

Governor Cuomo last week announced a plan for a major infusion of money–$1.4 billion–into central Brooklyn, with the main focus to be in poverty-afflicted areas like Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Crown Heights, and East New York.

Thank you, governor.

Of course, at this point, the plan, called Vital Brooklyn, is just that–a plan. The governor hopes to have the money allocated in his next budget, but that will mean convincing majorities in the Assembly and Senate to go along with him, never a sure thing when it means spending money.

According to an article about the plan in The New York Times, fully half the allotment, $700 million, would be used to fund initiatives related to health care, generally a huge problem for residents in the targeted area. Other monies would address neighborhood quality-of-life issues such as crime and violence, unemployment, and a lack of green space, “aiming to eliminate so-called park deserts by building green spaces and renovating athletic facilities within a 10-minute walk of every neighborhood.” It’s estimated that 7,600 jobs would be created, a network of 36 ambulatory care centers would be built, and 1,200 people would receive training to work in the construction industry. An additional $1.2 million would be used for youth development programs.

The Times article reports that the plan received positive initial responses from various experts in the fight against poverty, though some warned that, for continued success, any programs established or supported through Vital Brooklyn would need ongoing funding to maintain their level of activities.

Another piece of Vital Brooklyn includes the construction of 3,000 units of affordable housing in the area. While decent affordable housing is a noble idea, some current residents are wary of the plan, feeling that the new housing and all the upgrades in parkland could make the area more attractive to real estate developers, eventually pushing housing prices in the newly improved neighborhoods beyond their means. Residents will be happy for any improvement, but not if it eventually costs them their homes and their place in the neighborhood.

As mentioned above, the money for the plan will be included in the governor’s budget this year; whether or not it stays in will be up to state lawmakers.

To read the entire Times article, click here.