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NYC4Life Nov 13, 2008 9:26 PM


11/13/2008 11:43 AM

Advocates Want UWS Roads Reshaped For Cyclists

After Broadway was reshaped in Midtown Manhattan, a local advocacy group is pushing on a pedestrian and cyclist-friendly plan to reshape the Upper West Side.

A report from Transportation Alternatives proposes ideas for improving the area for people getting around without their cars.

The plan would cut Broadway from six lanes to four, and also calls for expanding sidewalks and placing bike lanes on the inside track of Broadway with barriers to separate cyclists from traffic.

Crosstown streets would get angled parking and sidewalk extensions in the middle of the block, creating a zig-zag pattern designed to slow drivers down.

The group suggests that Amsterdam Avenue also get extended sidewalks and a protected bike lane.

Copyright © 2008 NY1 News. All rights reserved.

NYC4Life Nov 18, 2008 8:03 PM


Updated 12:31 PM

MTA To Propose Service Cuts, Fare Hikes

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has prepared a tough cost-cutting proposal for consideration at Thursday's meeting which includes entire subway lines and bus routes disappearing and more than a thousand workers laid off.

Sources close to the budget process also say that the agency will propose a fare hike even greater than the eight-percent increase previously discussed.

NY1 has learned that officials are proposing dropping the W and Z lines completely, as well as cutting more than 1,500 station agent and administrative jobs.

The plan also calls for the G and M lines to be essentially cut in half and express service on the J train would be eliminated.

Overnight trains would be scheduled to run every 30 minutes instead of every 20. Midday service would also be cut back.

Dozens of bus routes with low ridership would be eliminated during late nights and weekends.

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. released a statement denoucing the MTA's proposal to eliminate the W line.

"Astoria is one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the city, and its trains are already overflowing with passengers," said Vallone. "To cut the only service to this neighborhood in half would be like choking the breath out of this community."

Straphangers say they are already dealing with slow service and the increased cuts will hurt both their commutes and their wallets.

"It's absurd, the service as it is is horrible; it's deplorable," said one straphanger. "You thinking of raising the fares, it's disgusting. I'm going to walk. I'm going to walk the bridge everyday instead."

"It's going to affect me budget-wise because I'm going to be spending more money to come to school and go to work," said another.

"The trains, I'd say, have been improving on their time," said a third. "I'm not sure what their plans are, but honestly, the economy is down and they have to do what they have to do."

Agency officials say the drastic measures may be necessary if the state does not step in with a bailout plan to help close a projected 2009 budget shortfall of $1.2 billion.

Copyright © 2008 NY1 News. All rights reserved.

NYC4Life Nov 18, 2008 8:04 PM


11/17/2008 10:11 PM

Subway Report Cards Show Some Improvement — For Now

By: Bobby Cuza

Transit officials have begun releasing the results of the latest round of rider report cards – and while the grades show improvement on some lines, that trend isn't likely to last. Transit Reporter Bobby Cuza filed the following story.

It was just over a year ago that the L train began getting special attention from transit officials. Along with the No. 7 line, the L was given a general manager with broad authority to make improvements that included more trains and more cleaners.

And it seems riders have taken notice, bumping the L train from a C to a C+ in the latest rider report cards.

"I was extremely encouraged that we were able to organize and actually move that customer satisfaction needle," NYC Transit President Howard Roberts said Monday.

Riders gave the L higher marks this time in six of the 21 categories they were asked to grade. But the improvements could be short-lived, because later this week transit officials are expected to propose a number of service cuts to take effect next summer in order to help bridge a massive budget deficit.

The news isn't sitting well with riders NY1 spoke with.

"I think cutting service is a terrible idea," one said.

"I think people would be really, really angry," said another. "And New Yorkers don't need any reason to be angrier than they already are."

As for the No. 7 line, despite recent improvements, riders gave that line mixed reviews. It rated higher than last year in some categories but lower on others, and its overall grade of a C was unchanged.

There were also far fewer responses to this year's survey – just over 4,000 compared to nearly 16,000 last year. On the other hand, one rider advocate warned the results may be skewed by the fact unhappy riders are more likely to respond.

"You just have to take it with a grain of salt," said Andrew Albert of the NYC Transit Riders Council. "New Yorkers are skeptical and they want things perfect, and if they're not perfect you're not going to get a really great grade."

The second round of rider report cards is ongoing. So far surveys have been handed out at about half the lines throughout the system, and will be distributed this week at stations along the B and E trains.

Copyright © 2008 NY1 News. All rights reserved.

NYCLuver Nov 19, 2008 4:20 AM

I live in Astoria and take the N & W lines when taking the subway and I can tell you during rush hour the trains are ridiculously packed. Sometimes when coming home from college in Manhattan I have to wait at the Lexington Ave and 59th street station and let 3-4 trains pass me by before I can even get inside without being a complete sardine.(I don't do well squished in small spaces with tons of people for a long period of time.:( ) So if they eliminate the W line, it will be like there will only be half the service into Astoria and I can just imagine how crowded and horrible its going to be. It makes no sense to get rid of the W line as the article said, Astoria is one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in terms of population. It'll be a nightmare if it is cut. :hell:

NYC4Life Nov 19, 2008 7:17 PM


Updated 12:44 PM

Triborough Bridge Becomes Robert F. Kennedy Bridge

The Triborough Bridge, which connects, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx, was officially renamed the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge today.

A ceremony was held in Queens's Astoria Park, a day before what would have been the assassinated New York senator's 83rd birthday.

Former President Bill Clinton, Governor David Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and members of the Kennedy family attended the ceremony.

“In his book, ‘The Power Broker,’ Robert Caro noted that the Triboro is not really a bridge at all but four bridges, which link together three boroughs and two islands,” said Bloomberg. “And building it, Caro said, was a feat equal to tying together two or three cities. So I think it’s only fitting that the name on such an incredible bridge reflect both the grandeur of its scale and the significance of its purpose.”

Earl Graves, founder of Black Enterprise Magazine and a former aide to Bobby Kennedy, also attended and said the renaming is happening at an appropriate time in history, when the late senator's vision is coming true.

"I would go with him around the city or around the state and he was always reaching out to young people and he was reaching out for new ideas," said Graves. "He was reaching out for those who were less fortunate to see how he could make things better for them."

"I think if he had lived, he would have been president," continued Graves.

"I think we were well on the way to that happening. He would think it's very appropriate because he said 40 years ago that he did see an African-American one day would be president. And today that has come to fruition."

After the ceremony, dignitaries toured the bridge span in vintage cars.

The bridge was officially opened in 1936, and 10-year-old
Anthony Dominick Benedetto, who later became singer Tony Bennett, sang at the dedication.

Copyright © 2008 NY1 News. All rights reserved.

NYC4Life Nov 19, 2008 7:18 PM


Updated 11:23 AM

Minor LIRR Accident Delays Trains

There are systemwide delays on the Long Island Rail Road after two trains bumped into each other leaving Jamaica Station this morning.

The railroad says it was a minor accident, but it caused big delays.

The two trains were evacuated and two people were hospitalized.

Local trains are experiencing 45-minute delays in both directions between Penn Station, Jamaica, Kew Gardens and Forest Hills.

NYC Transit is honoring LIRR tickets at Jamaica, Forest Hills and Kew Gardens, and cross-honoring LIRR tickets at the E, F, J and Z trains at Jamaica and Penn Stations.

The cause of the accident is under investigation.

Copyright © 2008 NY1 News. All rights reserved.

NYC4Life Nov 19, 2008 7:19 PM


Updated 12:10 PM

Sources: MTA To Hike Fares Still Higher

Newly-revealed details about the MTA's so-called “Doomsday Budget” show that mass transit will overall become even more expensive for New Yorkers.

According to sources close to the MTA's budget process, the agency is considering raising fare and toll revenue by 23 percent, nearly three times as high as the eight percent that had originally been talked about.

The MTA has some flexibility as to how an increase is allocated. It can apply to pay-per-ride customers or discounted MetroCards or both.

To help raise that revenue, sources say the MTA is looking at raising the fare for Access-a-Ride service to twice the base MetroCard fare, which is now $2 but is expected to rise.

The agency is also looking to raise the fare for express bus rides from $5 to $7.50.

The combined ridership of both services is more than 100,000 a day.

Express bus riders were dismayed at the proposed hikes.

"I don't know what's going on. I don't know if I can afford it or not. I don't know how I'm going to get back and forth from work," said a rider.

"It's a lot, because I don't have any other choice, but to take the express bus. I don't have a train near where I am. So that's a lot for people who don't have any other option," said another.

"I wish they wouldn't have to do that. But what can you do? They have a deficit. But they should find other ways to close the deficit, maybe get more money from the government," said a third.

Elected officials say Albany lawmakers need to shift the burden away from those who can least afford to pay more.

"I quite frankly don't know what's going on in Albany. I'm not there any more," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. " But clearly they've got to wake up and think bigger and bolder. And I believe very strongly that it's time to reinstate the commuter tax, earmark it to mass transit, because this kind of transit increase is going to be a tipping point for people to flee this city."

The MTA will unveil its complete slate of cost-cutting proposals at a board meeting tomorrow.

It's also been reported that officials will call for the elimination of the W and Z subway lines, slashing the G and M lines in half and eliminating express service on the Z train.

Dozens of bus routes would be eliminated and hundreds of jobs could be cut.

MTA officials blame plummeting tax revenues for their deficit and say the agency is in serious need of state aid.

Copyright © 2008 NY1 News. All rights reserved.

Antares41 Nov 19, 2008 8:02 PM


Originally Posted by NYCLuver (Post 3921082)
I live in Astoria and take the N & W lines when taking the subway and I can tell you during rush hour the trains are ridiculously packed. Sometimes when coming home from college in Manhattan I have to wait at the Lexington Ave and 59th street station and let 3-4 trains pass me by before I can even get inside without being a complete sardine.(I don't do well squished in small spaces with tons of people for a long period of time.:( ) So if they eliminate the W line, it will be like there will only be half the service into Astoria and I can just imagine how crowded and horrible its going to be. It makes no sense to get rid of the W line as the article said, Astoria is one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in terms of population. It'll be a nightmare if it is cut. :hell:

I think its political hogwash. Can't see them cutting subway lines when ridership is near or at an all-time high. This is just saber-rattling to squeeze out and justify more money from the city/state government and ultimately the citizens.

NYC4Life Nov 21, 2008 8:44 PM


Updated 3:14 PM

MTA Budget Plan Includes "Drastic" Fare Hikes, Service Cuts

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority unveiled its 2009 budget at a board meeting today in Midtown, following a period of public comment.

The so-called "Doomsday Budget" will sock riders with a steep fare hike and major service cuts.

MTA Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Elliot "Lee Sander" said the agency is considering increasing fare and toll revenue by 23 percent to help close a $1.2 billion budget gap projected for next year. The gap is predicted to swell to $3 billion by 2012.

The agency could completely scrap bus and subway routes, including the M8 crosstown bus and the W and Z trains and several express bus routes.

Twenty-one local bus routes could also be eliminated during weekday hours. In Manhattan, the routes that would be eliminated would be the M6, M8, M10, M18, M27, and M30.

"The service cuts I'm proposing today are guided by two principles that we believe are essential: first, that we continue to insure safety, security, and reliability," said Sander. "And second, that we maintain our fundemental mission – getting people where they need to go."

According to the MTA, the routes proposed for elimination have "practical bus and or subway alternatives for customers along the entire length of the route."

Pay-per-ride and unlimited-ride MetroCards, along with fares for express buses and Access-a-Ride service could all be increased.

Also proposed were New York City Transit and MetroNorth job cuts.

The MTA proposed eliminating 2,500 positions in the subway and bus system alone – saving $300 million a year.

Following Sander's presentation of the budget cuts necessary, board members spoke about what other taxes could be implemented.

Board member Norman Seabrook proposed a sin tax that would raise the taxes on cigarettes.

During a press conference after the meeting, Sander says many of the proposals could be scaled back if the state Legislature acts by February or March to forestall the fare increases and service cuts. The state could act if the Ravitch Commission, which is investigating new ways of funding the MTA, comes up with viable alternative funding solutions that could alleviate some of the pain.

Among the dozen who testified ahead of the budget announcement were Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, an MTA station agent, and several transit union representatives.

All implored the agency to find other methods of gaining funding beside a fare increase and service cuts.

"This is not just about putting the burden of the MTA on the backs of hard-working New Yorkers," said Stringer. "We cannot simply announce proposals today that say to people barely making it that 'we're going to sink you.'"

Dozens gathered outside the meeting early this morning to protest the proposed cuts. Later, many testified before the MTA board.

"The riders are not happy about being asked to pay a lot more for a lot less," said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. "Our hope is that the MTA and the legislative leaders will hear the cry of the riding public and come up with a fare solution to evenly spread the cost of transit."

"We're basically here today to say that the banks, and not the riders, should be the ones to bail out the MTA," said Tony Murphy of advocacy group Bail Out the People.

A series of public hearing on the proposed fare hike are scheduled for January.
Any changes would take effect in June.

Complete List Of Bus Routes To Be Affected
Local Routes That Face Elimination: B23, B25, B37, B39, B51, B75; Bx4, Bx14, Bx20, Bx34; M6, M8, M10, M18, M27, M30; Q26, Q56, Q74, Q75, Q84
Express Routes That Face Elimination: X25, X32, QM22, QM23 and BxM7B
Local Routes That Will Lose Both Weekend And Overnight Service:
B7, B48, B57, B65, M22 and M50

Copyright © 2008 NY1 News. All rights reserved.

NYC4Life Nov 21, 2008 8:45 PM


Updated 9:22 AM

Transportation Department Issues Gridlock Alert Day

Today is the first Gridlock Alert Day of the holiday season.

The city says the combination of regular traffic plus visitors and pedestrians will make it particularly hard to move around town.

The New York City Department of Transportation is advising people to use mass transit.

There are eight more designated gridlock alert days this year.

The next one comes on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

Copyright © 2008 NY1 News. All rights reserved.

NYC4Life Nov 21, 2008 8:46 PM

Crain's New York

November 20, 2008 4:43 pm

Port Authority moves to replace LGA terminal

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey authorized a $40 million study to create a new design for the central terminal at LaGuardia Airport.

(AP) - Even as many government agencies cut back, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey is pressing ahead with plans to replace the central terminal at LaGuardia Airport.

The authority on Thursday authorized a $40 million study that should result in a new design for the 45-year-old terminal, which handles about 12 million passengers a year.

The study is scheduled to be completed in 2010.

Construction would begin in 2011 or later. It could take as long as eight years, due in part to the difficulty of building a replacement in the ultra-cramped airport while the old building is still functioning.

©Copyright 2008 Associated Press.

orulz Nov 23, 2008 6:09 PM

Hope they include a subway station or a shell of a subway station or at least space for a subway station in the new terminal design.

OhioGuy Nov 23, 2008 7:06 PM


Originally Posted by orulz (Post 3929872)
Hope they include a subway station or a shell of a subway station or at least space for a subway station in the new terminal design.

I was just thinking maybe they should focus on bringing a rail line to LaGuardia. Maybe a spur of the LIRR there? Or do AirTrain like they do at JFK and Newark? Although I just Googled for some information and came upon this blog entry:


LGA to get AirTrain?
MTA: Plans May Include Train to LaGuardia

Freight rail lines could be converted into subway lines and a train could take passengers directly to LaGuardia Airport under a plan proposed by the head of the region's transit agency.

In a "State of the MTA" speech Monday, Metropolitan Transportation Authority executive director Elliot Sander proposed several long-range projects for the agency that runs New York City's subways, buses and suburban train lines.

Sander also said the MTA would explore creating a second AirTrain service to connect LaGuardia Airport to Long Island Rail Road service in Woodside, Queens. He said the MTA will add $30 million worth of promised new service [New York Times] this year, increasing service on 11 subway lines and extending several bus routes.

NYC4Life Nov 27, 2008 7:46 PM


Updated 12:53 PM

MTA Launches Real-Time Message System For Riders

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority today is introducing a real-time messaging system that – if it works as intended – will let riders know if there's transit trouble ahead of time so they can plan around it.

Beginning today, riders can sign up on the MTA's website for text messages and email alerts about unplanned service disruptions.

They will be able to customize the alerts to the subway lines and stations they use.

The system, which is based on the MTA's current email alert system for scheduled disruptions, will cost the agency $600,000 over five years.

Text-savvy New Yorkers say they could use the heads up from transit officials.

"I already get too many messages so I'm not sure how much attention I would pay to them, but it's probably a good idea," said one subway rider.

"I think it's very good because it gives people a sense of what's going on and just keep people aware," said another.

"If I got an alert every day that my subway was down or anything like that, it would help me plan out my day better," said a third.

The MTA drew criticism last August after a storm dumped three inches of rain on the city in an hour, crippling virtually the entire subway system. A task force looking into the agency's response concluded that riders may have stayed home or found another way to travel if they had known the extent of the problems.

Copyright © 2008 NY1 News. All rights reserved.

NYC4Life Nov 27, 2008 7:47 PM


Updated 11:33 AM

Local Airports Receive Poor Marks In Zagat Survey

Local airports are receiving little praise in a new national sky travel survey.

The latest Zagat poll released today leaves LaGuardia International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark International Airport far behind other national airports.

LaGuardia in particular receives low grades. It finished dead last, receiving 6.8 out of 30, among the nation's 27 largest airports in every catagory – except security.

Surveyors complained of LaGuardia's delays and lack of shops and restaurants.

Newark and JFK fared marginally better – placing 19th and 23rd overall.
Tampa International was ranked first in overall quality.

There was some good news for our area. New York-based Jet Blue received high marks for in flight entertainment and economy travel.

Researchers questioned almost 10,000 frequent flyers.

Copyright © 2008 NY1 News. All rights reserved.

NYC4Life Nov 27, 2008 7:48 PM


11/27/2008 10:33 AM

Report: Commission To Recommend Tolls On East River Bridges

The New York Times says a state commission will recommend a new tax on corporate payrolls and tolls on the East River and Harlem River bridges, in an effort to raise $1.6 billion a year.

The commission, headed by former Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Richard Ravitch is also expected to call for fare hikes, though they are said to be less than the steep hikes being proposed by the MTA.

The Times says the commission will only recommend minimal service cuts if any.

The MTA recently proposed raising revenues from fares and tolls by 23 percent, as well as eliminating some subway and bus lines and reducing service on others.

The MTA is facing a $1.2 billion shortfall next year because of the economic downturn.

The commission is expected to release its recommendations for Governor David Paterson on December 5th. Any proposals would need to be approved by the state Legislature.

Copyright © 2008 NY1 News. All rights reserved.

NYC4Life Nov 27, 2008 7:50 PM


Updated 12:29 PM

NYPD Steps Up Security Following News Of Unsubstantiated Subway Terror Plot

The New York City Police Department has confirmed it is stepping up security around the city this holiday "out of an abundance of caution," following an unsubstantiated report of a terrorist plot against the subway system.

While there are no specifics, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says its not uncommon especially at this time of year.

"There are no specific threats," said Kelly. "We always have to be concerned anytime we have large gatherings; that's precisely what we'll do Thanksgiving Day. We'll have sufficient deployment of officers in my judgment to ensure safety."

The NYPD and Metropolitan Transportation Authority say they are constantly re-adjusting to meet the city's security needs.

"The MTA is aware of an unsubstantiated report of terrorist threats against transit properties during the holiday season. We are already on high alert and are always on a heightened state of readiness during this season," MTA Press Secretary Jeremy Soffin in a statement. "We have been working closely with local, state and federal law enforcement to increase police presence throughout our transportation system. As always, we ask that our customers remain alert and report any suspicious activity or packages, but there is no reason to be alarmed."

The news comes as New Yorkers hit the roads, rails, and airports, heading to their holiday destinations.

The Port Authority says it's prepared for a busy travel weekend in the tri-state area.

Officials expect nearly five-million people to go through area airports, bridges, and tunnels.

But for the first time in years, the number of Americans traveling this weekend is expected to decrease as a result of worries about the economy.

AAA expects 41 million Americans to travel more than 50 miles this weekend – a decrease of about 1.5 percent, or 600,000 people. It would be the first drop in Thanksgiving travel since 2002.

Air travel is expected to be down more than seven percent.

The drop in travel comes in spite of rapidly falling gas prices, which are now on average less than $2 a gallon nationwide.

New Yorkers who spoke with NY1 this morning said despite the bleak economic situation, they are willing to go the extra mile for the holiday.

"Families are supposed to get together and share the thanksgiving dinner together and it's not all the time we get to share a meal together as a family," said one Staten Island resident.

"I have curtailed my driving in the last several months and basically travel overall," said another. "But this is a family tradition, drive up to Cape Cod and enjoy the holiday."

In an effort to keep the city moving, law enforcement officials will be cracking down on drivers who block intersections.

Under a law that took effect in September, blocking the box is now considered both a parking and a moving violation, so traffic agents or police officers can issue tickets to violators. It comes as the city is putting 200 additional traffic agents to work.

"It's estimated that these 200 new traffic enforcement agents will generate about $61 million in revenue and about $66 million here on out each fiscal year, based on, I think it's an average of $83 per summons that the city collects," explained Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

There are seven more Gridlock Alert Days this year after today. The next one comes a week from today.

Meanwhile, in observance of Thanksgiving, many closing and schedule changes are in effect around the city.

Copyright © 2008 NY1 News. All rights reserved.

NYC4Life Nov 27, 2008 7:51 PM


11/27/2008 09:59 AM

More Details Emerge About Subway Terror Plot

As terrorists struck in India yesterday, security was beefed up at major transportation points in New York City on the news that al-Qaida may have discussed a possible terror attack on our transit system.

The warning was contained in a bulletin sent by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to local and state authorities.

It cited "uncorroborated but plausible information that al-Qaida may have discussed in late September the targeting of transit systems in and around New York City."

Even though word of the terror alert came on the busiest travel day of the year, reaction among travelers was mixed.

"This is very scary. I feel like moving out of New York," said one New Yorker. "That's all I can tell you."

"You've heard enough alerts. It's crying wolf," said another. "So I'm not going to worry about it. I've heard enough. When it happens I'll duck; what are you going to do?"

Of course is going to be frightening, but like everything else, being a New Yorker you got to take everything in stride and go about your daily business," said a third.

DHS officials say they are not raising the terror alert level.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the NYPD are encouraging New Yorkers to remain alert and tell police or an MTA employee about any suspicious people or packages.

Copyright © 2008 NY1 News. All rights reserved.

NYC4Life Dec 2, 2008 11:36 PM


Updated 12/01/2008 10:39 PM

Bus Driver Stabbed To Death In Brooklyn

Authorities are offering a $12,000 reward after a city bus driver was stabbed to death while on the job in Brooklyn Monday afternoon.

Police say 46-year-old Edwin Thomas died after receiving stab wounds to the neck and chest.

Thomas was operating a bus on the B46 line along Gates Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Witnesses say a man got on the bus and asked for a transfer.

When the Thomas told him he was not eligible, police say the suspect stabbed him twice: once in the stomach and once in the chest.

Thomas was taken to Woodhull Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Police are looking for the suspect, and are offering a $12,000 reward for any information leading to his arrest and conviction.

Anyone with information is being asked to call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS or send a text to CRIMES and enter TIP577.

Copyright © 2008 NY1 News. All rights reserved.

NYC4Life Dec 2, 2008 11:37 PM

NY Times

Security Issues Shut Down Downtown Copter Shuttle

Published: November 30, 2008

U.S. Helicopter, the only company shuttling travelers from heliports in Manhattan to local airports, was already in dire financial straits, but a decision by city officials has left the air-shuttle operator unable to fly to or from its base of operations near Wall Street.
Librado Romero/The New York Times
Charter and tourist helicopter flights still use the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, but airport shuttles use an East Side port.

The problem involves FirstFlight, a small aviation company that city officials selected to manage the Downtown Manhattan Heliport. That company, which had no experience operating an urban heliport or airport, took over operations at the downtown heliport on Nov. 1. But it still has not obtained the federal Transportation Security Administration’s approval of its plan for maintaining security there.

Without an approved security plan, FirstFlight cannot serve U.S. Helicopter’s passengers, who had been clearing security at the heliport and bypassing the screening lines at Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International airports. U.S. Helicopter has been telling passengers that the disruption was only temporary, but it has stretched into its fourth week and may last a few more, according to Lara Uselding, a
spokeswoman for the security administration.

The absence of a security plan has left the security administration’s crew at the heliport with no luggage or passengers to screen. The federal agency assigned a screening team to the heliport before U.S. Helicopter began operating there in early 2006, just as the agency reduced staffing at the region’s three major airports.

(On Wednesday, the screeners were temporarily reassigned to La Guardia Airport to help handle the holiday rush, Ms. Uselding said.)

That setup allowed U.S. Helicopter’s customers, who paid as much as $159 for an eight-minute ride, to clear security in Manhattan and fly directly to secure areas of the airports.

Until Nov. 1, the company was running flights from two heliports — one near Wall Street and another at the east end of 34th Street — to Kennedy and Newark. For the past few weeks, travelers who live or work in Lower Manhattan have had to travel more than three miles uptown to the East 34th Street Heliport to board a U.S. Helicopter flight.

U.S. Helicopter had ambitious plans to expand the service to La Guardia and a third heliport on the West Side of Manhattan, then to other cities, including Chicago and Los Angeles. But demand for the service has been weak, and the company has had trouble financing its growth.

As its losses have piled up, the company has been borrowing to stay in business at interest rates as high as 15 percent, according to its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Earlier this year, the company’s auditors expressed doubt about its ability to continue operating.

It was unclear how much U.S. Helicopter had suffered from being barred from using its downtown heliport or how long the company could survive without it. Donal McSullivan, the company’s chief marketing officer, did not respond to messages left on his cellphone and at the company’s offices.

U.S. Helicopter’s troubles were compounded when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey stopped managing the downtown heliport on Oct. 31. City officials had expected FirstFlight, which won the contract to operate the heliport over several other bidders, to take over without disruption, said David Lombino, a spokesman for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which oversaw the bidding.

But the company did not draw up a security plan of its own and seek the Transportation Security Administration’s approval until the Port Authority’s managers were leaving the heliport and taking their security plan with them, aviation officials said.

Paul Dudley, owner of Linden Airport Management Corporation in New Jersey, an unsuccessful bidder, sued the Economic Development Corporation in state and federal courts and appealed to city officials, arguing, among other things, that FirstFlight was unqualified to operate the heliport. The failure to obtain the required federal approval was proof that he was right, Mr. Dudley said in an interview.

“The city should have canceled them immediately because they failed to meet a principal and fundamental requirement of the contract,” Mr. Dudley said.

Ronald J. Ricciardi, vice chairman of FirstFlight, did not respond to a request for comment.

“Any new entity that would be a new operator would hopefully understand the importance of security in the New York City area and should expect to comply with Congressional mandates for upholding the highest levels of security,” Ms. Uselding said.

She added that the security administration was working with FirstFlight officials and hoped to have an acceptable security plan drawn up “in the coming weeks.”

In the meantime, the downtown heliport has remained open for the sightseeing and charter flights by other companies that account for most of the traffic there, Mr. Lombino said. “The transition to FirstFlight has been otherwise seamless, and the heliport has been operating in a safe and efficient manner.”

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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