Thursday, February 11, 2016

Manhattan Institute Panders To Princess Atop Pea Opposition To New Road Tunnels

The Manhattan Institute Outs Itself as catering to 'princess atop a mattress atop a pea" mentality for the affluent to block new road tunneled in their areas thus forcing a greater traffic burden upon the less privileged.

To his credit, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo recently publicly announced his support for a highway tunnel link connecting I-287 in Westchester County with Long Island's Route 135 that would logically once then receive the I-287 designation.  Such a proposal surfaced in 2007, promoted by a Long Island real estate developer Vincent Polimeri:

"The Manhattan Institute", a private foundation:

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (renamed in 1981 from the International Center for Economic Policy Studies) is a conservative American think tank established in New York City in 1978 by Antony Fisher and William J. Casey. The organization describes its mission as to "develop and disseminate new ideas that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility". Its message is communicated through books, articles, interviews, speeches, op-eds, and through the institute's quarterly publication City Journal. According to the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report and Policy Advice (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), the Institute is number 39 of the "Top 60 United States Think Tanks".[2]

About Antony Fisher:

Sir Antony Fisher (Antony George Anson Fisher, also nicknamed AGAF) (28 June 1915 – 8 July 1988) was a British businessman and philanthropist. He participated in the formation of various libertarian organisations during the second half of the twentieth century, including the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Atlas Network. Through Atlas, he helped establish up to 150 other institutions worldwide.

About William J. Casey:

William Joseph Casey (March 13, 1913 – May 6, 1987) was the Director of Central Intelligence from 1981 to 1987. In this capacity he oversaw the entire United States Intelligence Community and personally directed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

This is their web site url:

This is their self description:

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research is a leading voice of free-market ideas, shaping political culture since our founding in 1977. Ideas that have changed the United States and its urban areas for the better—welfare reform, tort reform, proactive policing, and supply-side tax policies, among others—are the heart of MI’s legacy. While continuing with what is tried and true, we are constantly developing new ways of advancing our message in the battle of ideas.

The Manhattan Institute has a magazine publication "City"

One could imagine this Institute and publication to be a sounding board for improved long term planning.  And in particular, be opposed to the sort of trendy 'environmentalist' dogma that presumes that the highway network must never be added to, nor even simply improved with replacing outdated somewhat blighting elevated freeway segments with poor geometric standards, lacking even shoulders nor proper merge lanes, with modern spec replacements, even those that would replace an elevated segment with one within tunnel box beneath new parkland.  For we must somehow reject any projects ever for accommodating the general public's automobiles.

I myself had encountered City in bookstores during the 1990s, and read it with interest, particularly its inveigling against planning paralysis.  Naturally, I searched for what they would have published concerning the Westway Project, on the planning books from 1974 to September 1985, and found this within a Spring 1996 City article "The Wasted Waterfront" by Kenneth Silber:

"... An ever-expanding range of federal and state environmental regulations, for land and water, began to complicate waterfront development further. Political and community opposition began to form toward projects deemed too large, too commercial, or too environmentally insensitive. And more and more waterfront property fell under public-sector ownership, where all too often it would lie dormant.

The most ambitious proposal to transform New York’s waterfront—one whose failure would have lasting repercussions—was Westway, the highway and development project announced in 1974 by state and federal officials for Manhattan’s West Side. Originally conceived by the Regional Plan Association, a private group that studies land-use issues, Westway was a truly visionary idea: a highway running through a tunnel under 181 acres of new landfill in the Hudson River; on top, there would be development sites and ample parkland extending to the water’s edge. The cost: $2.3 billion, to be paid by the federal government.

Yet Westway drew growing resistance from a coalition of West Side residents, environmentalists, and community boards, who opposed everything from the noise and disruption of construction to the impact of new landfill on the Hudson’s aquatic life. Westway’s opponents seized upon the presence of striped bass in the river as a means of stopping the project, arguing that the removal of deteriorating piers would deprive the fish of needed spawning grounds and “rest stops” for their annual migrations. This dubious argument—which sidestepped the question of how the fish survived in the millennia before the piers were built—succeeded in killing the project.

The law held Westway’s planners to an almost impossible standard: they had to prove that the project would not damage the striped bass population. In 1985 after more than a decade of litigation, a federal judge ruled, unsurprisingly, that they had failed to do so. The following year, with endless delays in sight and with Congress poised to withdraw funding, Governor Mario Cuomo and Mayor Edward Koch abandoned the project..."

A good piece. And likewise, the habitat was along an already artificially expanded waterfront, with the fish attracted there from along the length of the long Hudson River by a sewer outlet.

City blames excessive regulations, though Westway was defeated in a law suit owing to the USDOT authorities not sufficiently addressing the matter in the Environmental Impact Statements.

Nevermind that the fish habitat could have been simply relocated with the coastline, even enhanced with underwater structures to compensate for any aquatic changes from the narrowing of the Hudson River.

In a 1992 City article "Planning With Vision" by Nathan Glazer:

"...But we have suffered costs as a result of this higher density. I have been trying to make a case for physical planning, major public intervention for the common good. Yes, New York’s economic development is hampered by far too much regulation: The newspapers tell the sad story of projects—public facilities, office buildings, apartment complexes—that cannot make it through the regulatory maze or, if they do, can only do so by being saddled with enormous additional costs. One is reminded of the exclamation of Senator Moynihan, contemplating the debacle of Westway: “How did we ever manage to build the George Washington Bridge?” New York’s development must be unshackled, for it is far too bound by rule and regulation. But the unshackling should be combined with a vision of a better way of life. Unleash the productive forces, but govern them by a larger sense of the common good...."

I could have imagined City not only further pointing out these absurdities of the Westway cancellation, but as well show infrastructure projects from around the world featuring new highway tunnels, to show how reactionary such local "progressive" politics had become, and making suggestions applying such concepts to New York City.

I would be disappointed.

In the years since Westway's September 11, 1985 cancellation, a series of other projects have been proposed for reconstructing certain antiquated design highway segments largely or primarily within all new highway tunnels, such as the Gowanus Expressway in Brooklyn, and just to the north, that highway's essential continuation as the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, including the option of a tunnel to bypass the rather artfully done triple level segment to the south of the Brooklyn Bridge retaining it as a local collector distributor, with the mainline relocated into a new tunnel.  The proposed Gowanus Expressway Tunnel received a major public promotion by the Regional Plan Association in 1996-1997, being addressed by NYSDOT with a study, with the proposals for the BQE to the north so addressed by the authorities more than a decade latter.  A new set of tunnels would go far towards relocating much of this traffic flow out of sight, smell and sound while accommodating some useful extra capacity- which I heard opposition from one particular planner who was simultaneously advocating altogether decommissioning or even demolishing the triple level segment despite its architectural significance!  For the BQE, one proposal was for a short tunnel to bypass the triple deck promenade, while another was for a longer tunnel essentially continuing the straight line of the Gowanus Expressway altogether bypassing the approach to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

Another idea more recently heard about, but with no reported official planning study is for a "Big U" landfill with parkland atop an enclosed box tunnel highway around the southern end of Manhattan, promoted as a storm barrier to protect from flooding.  This would relocate a portion of the FDR Drive underground, and would conceivably revive Westway, perhaps with some design variations.

Alas the Obama Administration would deny funding for the BQE project, hence putting it off into the future.

And despite the longer amount of time that we have been hearing about a Gowanus Expressway Tunnel, planning for that appears to have floundered.  No construction project has been started or announced.  And the planning process has dropped all of the route alternatives directly along the existing elevated freeway nor the parallel streets, hence limiting itself to a sole route option directly along the waterfront likely involving some degree of new land-fill, and having me wonder if that is a set up to block it upon the sort of argument used against Westway regarding aquatic life, or perhaps at least drive up its costs, as their appears to be ample space to construct a set of tunnels along the existing highway under 3rd Street.

Nor have we heard any other proposals to at least deck over some existing freeway segments, perhaps the I-87 Major Deegan Expressway in the northern Bronx, nor any planning vision officially or from any funded organizations for reconstructing the segment of the Deegan south of Yankee Stadium within a new modern spec tunnelway, whether or not staged as the Cincinnati I-71 Fort Washington Way depressed freeway designed to be given a roof later.  Indeed, far worse, the authorities have permitted development to encroach upon the lightly developed industrial properties and abandoned railroad right of ways adjacent to these stretches of highway that would be highly useful for such projects, thus locking in antiquated and divisive highway designs for the sake of speeding up short term developer profit.

Nor have we heard anything about reviving the single most important previously proposed highway tunnel proposal that was rashly included in the mass cancellations of planned freeways in 1969 by N.Y.C. Mayor Lindsey who had previously made some excellent suggestions about better reconciling urban highways into the areas with a maximum use of existing corridors and tunnel enclosures- the Cross-Brooklyn Expressway-Linear City that would provide a parallel route to the highly used Long Island Expressway, relieving traffic from that and the connecting segment of the BQE-Gowanus Expressways.

Nor have we heard any serious proposals, only lip service to he much touted concept of decking over portions of the Cross Bronx Expressway, despite the various favorable mention of such by such groups as the Tri State Transportation Campaign.

Rather, the biggest political push within Greater New York City was a recent campaign to remove the Sheridan Expressway in the south Bronx, one which had to retreat owing to the obvious benefit of retaining its underpass beneath Westchester Avenue rather than route such traffic that includes numerous trucks through the traffic light intersection to and from Hunts Point Market.  This campaign is spurred by a desire to improve local access to the Bronx river waterfront.  However it likewise overlooks the topography that would better allow that via a deck atop a portion of the Sheridan.

Within the Greater New York Metropolitan area, the single most significant highway project proposal is the Cross Sound Tunnel connecting I-287 in Westchester County with Route 135 in Nassau County, replacing the Cross Sound Bridge proposal that was actively planned by Robert Moses but canceled in 1973.  That would provide Long Island with a direct access to the mainland that would not pass through New York City.  It would open up a direct access from Long Island towards New England (the current I-287 terminus at its interchange with I-95 is just inside the New York State line with Connecticut, and I-287 connects with the northerly running I-684 which connects with I-84).  And it would divert a significant amount of traffic from I-95 in Westchester and the northeast Bronx, and the connections to and via the Whitestone and Throggs Neck Bridges, plus much of the Long Island Expressway.  It would employ drilled tunnels to avoid the impacts of a bridge, and would construct the 135 extension as a tunnel, with the cut and cover southern end of that beneath new parkland and recreation facilities, rather than simply being an exposed freeway.  This would all address the local environmental concerns while providing what would be a much useful added evacuation route out of Long Island, a particularly logically greater concern since 911.

Nonetheless the Cross Sound Tunnel planning has politically floundered.  Reportedly then N.Y. Governor Elliot Spitzer favored it, and was set to announce his support publicly for a plan that would have funded it via Bears Stear, before being felled by a sex scandal involving his patronage as "Client #9" of a brothel "Emperors' Club", via a barrage of NY Post/NY Daily News tabloid reporting that never bothered addressing Clients #s1-8 nor #10 and higher in what was clearly a brothel catering to politicians and other leaders.  The timing of this questionable publicity and the subsequent collapse of Bears Sterns has been suggested as being meant to thwart the tunnel.  As can be expected, even this tunnel is being opposed by some within the wealthy neighborhoods at each of its ends in and near Rye and Oyster Bay, despite its many differences than the past Robert Moses era proposals.

The Manhattan Institute and its City magazine could be doing far far more to advance ideas as these to get beyond the political malaise of continually neglecting improving the highways- whether operationally or even environmentally via placing more within tunnels to enclose noise and pollution while improving local connectivity.  After all, are not cities all about creating multiple levels of space to accommodate and reconcile greater human activity with in a given footprint.

Alas, to its detriment and that of the greater New York Metropolitan region, "The Manhattan Institute" has gone in the opposite direction by pandering to the same sort of reactionary ideology leaving the authorities to continually, for the sake of catering to a relatively small number of more affluent people in a wealthier area- as evident by their response to Governor Cuomo's support for a Cross Sound Tunnel, via their spokesperson Nicole Gelinas:

The New Year has begun, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo evidently did not make an important resolution: stop announcing huge infrastructure projects without a way to pay for them. This week alone, Cuomo unveiled three projects worth billions of dollars, even as nobody knows how to fund last year’s projects. There’s nothing wrong with building infrastructure – in fact, it’s a good thing – but Cuomo has to starting picking his projects wisely, and then put some real cash behind them.

Cuomo’s [Long Island Sound] tunnel idea would inevitably take away money from something else, perhaps something more useful.
Cuomo stakes his legacy on big stuff you can touch. On Tuesday, he cited Robert Moses, New York’s mid-century master builder, in saying that “somewhere along the way, we lost our daring.” The governor said that, like Moses, we have to “think big” and stop it with NIMBY-ism.
It’s true that Moses built some great stuff – but also true that he built some pretty bad stuff, including highways like the Cross-Bronx Expressway, which helped hollow out the Bronx six decades ago.
One marquee project Cuomo announced Tuesday represents Moses’ worst impulses. The governor said that he wants to build a car tunnel underneath the Long Island Sound, connecting the island with Connecticut, Westchester or the Bronx.

Such a tunnel would precipitate a lot of, well, NIMBY-ism – but for good reason. In 1964, around the time Moses was finishing the Cross-Bronx, he proposed a bridge over the Long Island Sound, something he said was a “fetish” for him. (Hey, to each his own.)

Nine years later, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller killed the idea. Local residents had for years agitated against a project that, as the New York Times put it, would “overload existing road systems, harm the ecology and the recreational value of (the) Long Island Sound, and destroy the communities in the path of the access roads.”

The residents were right, just as the people who killed the proposed Westway highway project along the Hudson River in Manhattan in the same era were right. We do not solve traffic problems by building more highways; new highways only cause more traffic.

Yes, a tunnel would have less impact on local towns, but it would have some impact. Think of the access ramps and such that the Lincoln Tunnel, Holland Tunnel and Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel need. The worst effect, though, would be more cars on local highways and streets already choked with cars.

Moreover, when Moses proposed infrastructure projects, he found ways to pay for them. Building a tunnel under the Sound would cost billions of dollars. But the governor hasn’t yet proposed how to pay for his existing crossing project: the $3.9 billion Tappan Zee Bridge replacement, under construction north of New York City. This week, the governor did the opposite, proposing to freeze and even reduce tolls on the state’s Thruway system for another five years, at a cost of $1 billion.

Cuomo’s tunnel idea would inevitably take away money from something else, perhaps something more useful. Cuomo’s other major proposal on Tuesday was to build a new, 10-mile track on the Long Island Rail Road. This is actually a good idea. Right now, track constraints mean that the LIRR can run trains only in one direction much of the time, meaning people who would like to take the train have to take a car instead, or wait hours. And here, Cuomo’s policy team seems to have actually thought some issues through: reducing the number of houses the railroad would need to seize, for example, from 200 in an older plan to 50 now, would lower costs and mitigate community opposition.

The problem, of course, is money. A new track would cost well more than $1 billion (anything we do in this state costs at least a billion dollars). Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which would build the project, still has no idea how it’s going to pay for its existing expansion projects, including the $10.2 billion East Side Access project, another LIRR expansion.

One way to fund the new track would be to ask Long Island towns and villages to assess a fee on new apartment developments along the route. This would show that Long Island is willing to increase its density, which is the entire point of building anything at all. But here, too, with the Tappan Zee, expect Cuomo to start building (or at least studying) now and paying later.

- anti Cross Sound Tunnel

- and anti Westway.

- and close minded upon new ways of funding, nor of the potential benefits of perpetual extra property tax revenues- an issue perhaps completely ignored by the great public "debate" over Westway.

Is not it interesting how a supposedly "right wing" think tank spouts the same rhetoric of the left wing 'progressives'?

"... pretty bad stuff, including highways like the Cross-Bronx Expressway, which helped hollow out the Bronx six decades ago ...One marquee project Cuomo announced Tuesday represents Moses’ worst impulses ... build a car tunnel underneath the Long Island Sound, connecting the island with Connecticut, Westchester or the Bronx. Such a tunnel would precipitate a lot of, well, NIMBY-ism – but for good reason. In 1964, around the time Moses was finishing the Cross-Bronx, he proposed a bridge over the Long Island Sound, something he said was a “fetish” for him. (Hey, to each his own.) Nine years later, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller killed the idea. Local residents had for years agitated against a project that, as the New York Times put it, would “overload existing road systems, harm the ecology and the recreational value of (the) Long Island Sound, and destroy the communities in the path of the access roads.”

NYMYISM against a Cross Sound Tunnel would be for "good reason" while mentioning the Cross Bronx Expressway?!  Such a juxtaposition is revealing.

The east-west Cross Bronx Expressway, connects the George Washington Bridge with points east largely , as a segment of I-95, with connections to the Whitestone and Throggs Neck Bridges to Queens County in western Long Island, passes through densely developed areas, and is highly congested.

The approach highways to the Cross Sound Tunnel or Bridge, I-287 and Route 135 are less congested and as they pass through far more lightly developed areas, would be physically infinitely easier to widen that the Cross Bronx Expressway

The Cross Bronx Expressway passes through relatively lower middle economic class neighborhoods, while the areas around the I-287 and 135 and their respective I-95 and I-495 crossroads are relatively highly affluent.

As the Cross Bronx Expressway passes in close proximity to numerous apartment buildings, its lack of enclosure within a tunnelway is infinitely more acute.

The lack of a Cross Sound Tunnel nor Bridge has the primary effect of routing more traffic upon the Westchester and northeast Bronx segment of I-95 and the Hutchinson River Parkway, plus the Long Island Expressway through eastern Queens, and Nassau County

Meanwhile, the lack of an I-95 segment in more rural northwestern from Trenton to I-287 places additional traffic upon the Cross Bronx Expressway- a segment that was canceled in 1982 owing to political opposition from the more affluent towns along and near its route, despite the area being far less dense.   Let us not forget this part of the broader picture.

So what Nicole Geliner is writing is that wealthier areas should continue to get over upon less affluent areas by stopping a proposed highway tunnel, never-mind that they are getting to stop a tunnel, and/or represent an area far far less densely developed, while less affluent areas get more traffic upon highways that are not enclosed in tunnels, even in such less affluent areas that are densely developed as the Bronx.


Don't forget such opposition is not about deferring such projects as the Cross Sound Tunnel or Bridge, with an argument to building the proposed rail transit projects before embarking upon the Cross Sound Crossing.  Rather, it is to never build the Cross Sound Crossing.

Hence the distraction from any discussion of alternative ways of funding.  And hence the appeal to emotion with the blurring the histories of a conventional surface freeway carved through a densely developed poorer area with some questionable planning decisions as Robert Moses' failure to enclose all but a few short segments within tunnels and a routing through the East Tremont neighborhood rather than an alternative route one block south that would have been far less impactive, with another freeway through a far more sparsely yet wealthier area- even with the latter as a full length tunnel!.

The Manhattan Institute can do infinitely better than continually pandering to this environmental classism-racism.

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