By Kieran K. Meadows
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority revealed yesterday that its budget shortfall is almost $2 billion due to $650 million in declining real estate tax and fare revenues. A decrease in ridership in January also contributed to the agency’s financial problems. The MTA has proposed wide-ranging service cuts and fare increases to take effect in late spring, but now the cuts may be deeper than previously thought, even if the agency receives bailout money from the state.
The likelihood of bus service cuts is devastating to some neighborhoods in Brooklyn, where at least five routes could be eliminated. The MTA has been trying to get the word out by posting signs onboard buses to announce public hearings about the cuts.
Still, the news hasn’t yet reached some of the people who would be most affected.
“I didn’t hear about that,” said J Roberts, of Flatbush, seated at the back of the B77 bus with her 8-year-old son, Trévon. Roberts uses two routes that would be affected by the cuts, the B77 and the B75, to take her son to the YMCA on Ninth Street on weekends.
The B77 and the B75 serve Red Hook, an isolated neighborhood in southwest Brooklyn known for its lack of convenient access to public transportation. The B75, which stops at the edge of the neighborhood, is used by Red Hook residents to go downtown and also to Park Slope and Kensington in the other direction. This route is slated be eliminated altogether.
I’ve been plenty busy with graduate school as well as other obligations, but I just wanted to point to some of the work I did in the Fall semester at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism:
By Kieran K. Meadows
Industrial shop machines clutter the inside of a gutted former church on Pioneer Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The roof rises about 60 feet and a steep wooden staircase leads to a loft-like second floor. Orange extension cords snake along catwalk-like structures and thick ropes hang from wooden rafters. Inside a room on the second floor, methodical instructions cover worktable surfaces reminiscent of a plant assembly line.
A small tour of three artists wound its way around the studio space, intrigued by the organized chaos—a cross between a shop artists’ funhouse and endless storage space.
“There are about 1,000 parts in Raining Tree,” boasted Chico MacMurtrie, the artistic director of Amorphic Robot Works, as he pointed to a large silvery tree-like structure slumped in storage. At one point the tree was a robotic installation that responded to the presence of viewers by moving and dripping water rhythmically from its branches.
“I need hands all the time,” MacMurtrie said to the group—a sculptor, a painter, and a seamstress. “I can’t always pay, but I can feed you.”
MacMurtrie, 47, calls himself a robotic sculptor. He founded Amorphic Robot Works in 1991 as a collaboration of artists, engineers and programmers to help him realize his mechanical kinetic sculptures. Much of MacMurtrie’s work consists of many small parts that must fit perfectly and move together for the sculpture to function. In many ways, his work serves as a metaphor for the way he runs his studio: like another one of his machines, but with artists and co-workers as the integral parts.
“The people here are like the components,” MacMurtrie said.
By Kieran K. Meadows
Veteran 42nd Precinct Officer Tony Panos and his partner, Officer Greg Zukoff, agreed it was an unusual morning Wednesday as they patrolled the Morrisania section of the South Bronx. They handled only one call – or “job” – a landlord-tenant dispute at the beginning of their shift in sector “Henry,” the eighth sector in the precinct. Since that call: nothing. Officer Panos admitted the morning shift was usually a little slower, but he was still surprised by the lack of calls.
“I haven’t seen it like this in a long time,” he said. “We can’t even back someone up. This is unusually quiet today,” he said. To illustrate his point, he mentioned there was at least one major gun job per day.
Officer Panos, 38, clean-shaven with greased jet-black hair combed and parted on his right, crossed one leg over the other. He looked like he was sitting in a porch chair rather than the front passenger seat of a police squad car.
Since 1990, Officer Panos and Officer Zukoff have patrolled the hilly Morrisania in the South Bronx. They have witnessed dramatic changes over that period. Morrisania is still considered a high-crime area but crime is down over 65 percent in the neighborhood since the early 1990s. Back then it looked like rubble or a war zone, they said. Vacant overgrown lots, burnt-out buildings and abandoned cars on every block have now been replaced by numerous private and public developments. Continue reading