Pataki’s M.T.A. Puts City at Risk

In the wake of the four deadly terrorist attacks on the London subway and bus system last week, New Yorkers have experienced a strong rush of sympathy for our cousins across the Atlantic, as well as an uneasiness about the security of our own mass-transit system. Many probably assume that, having borne the brunt of the worst terrorist attack in world history in 2001, New York has done all it can to fortify its transportation infrastructure. But that assumption would be wrong: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been asleep at the switch, despite having access to an abundance of federal funds. Although the authority committed $600 million in 2002 to upgrading security, it turns out that only $30 million of that money has been spent. Furthermore, the authority walked away from a deal with the U.S. Army that would have installed some of the Army’s most advanced anti-terrorism technology in our mass-transit system. This reckless disregard for the safety of millions of residents and commuters is outrageous.

New Yorkers might be stunned to learn that transit agencies in cities such as Boston and Houston have done significantly more than the M.T.A. to secure the safety of their residents. Almost all of the $30 million that the M.T.A. has spent has been on consultants and studies, with little to show on the ground. Now that word has leaked out that $570 million in security funds has been gathering dust, the M.T.A. is loudly proclaiming that it will spend $300 million by the end of this year. That’s all well and good, but those projects will likely take years to complete. Had they been started in 2002, they’d be coming to fruition right about now.

Most shockingly, the M.T.A. abandoned a deal with the Army that would have brought the latest security technologies—some of which are used in Iraq—to our subways, buses, bridges and tunnels. Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, the M.T.A. hired a longtime police commander, Louis Anemone, as its security director. Mr. Anemone and M.T.A. executives quickly embarked on a series of weekly meetings with Army officials, who were eager to apply the latest anti-terrorism technology to New York. Army engineers had an array of innovative devices to offer, such as smart cameras, infrared sensors and radars, which would alert the police if anyone entered a vulnerable area of the transit system. They had plans for protecting the Lincoln and Holland tunnels by severely restricting access and using devices that would disorient any intruder, such as by firing rubber bullets. When it came to strategy, the Army offered its expertise in creating command-and-control centers from which attacks could be monitored and communications kept open. The collaborative effort, which had the approval of the Department of Defense, seemed like a win-win, and the initial stage would cost only $250 million—well within the $600 million budget.

So what happened? In May 2003, the M.T.A. fired Mr. Anemone and his deputy after the two men had made allegations of corruption on an unrelated matter. Both are suing the authority, asserting that they were unjustly dismissed. Mr. Anemone’s replacement as security chief, William Morange, decided that he wasn’t interested in working with the Army, and the project was dropped.

Once again, where there is massive incompetence, one is likely to find Governor George Pataki behind it: The M.T.A.’s board is packed with Mr. Pataki’s cronies, and its chairman, Peter Kalikow, was appointed by the Governor. While much of Mr. Pataki’s previous bungling damaged the economy, this time his laziness and ineptitude has put the city’s safety at risk. New Yorkers can be thankful that our Police Department, led by the brilliant and effective Commissioner Ray Kelly, has made fighting terrorism a priority. One hopes that when Mr. Pataki is sent packing next year, his successor will press the M.T.A. to revisit the deal with the Army.

skinnyblueline Patakis M.T.A. Puts City at Risk

Bloomberg Boosts Boroughs

It’s a traditional complaint in New York politics that Mayors pay too much attention to economic development in Manhattan and not enough in the outer boroughs.

In some ways, this bias is understandable. Manhattan, let’s face it, is the economic engine not only of the city, but of the entire region. Hundreds of thousands of commuters from New Jersey, Connecticut, upstate New York and even Pennsylvania make a living in Manhattan, the home of not one but two central business districts.

That said, the outer boroughs also create jobs and economic opportunities for millions of people. Mayor Michael Bloomberg clearly recognizes that fact of life, and has won praise for quietly going about the business of encouraging economic development in the boroughs.

The Mayor’s big-ticket items, like the West Side stadium, obviously have been geared for Manhattan. But he has also turned the energies and intellect of his administration to developing or reclaiming areas like the Hunts Point area of the Bronx, Long Island City in Queens and the East River neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn. New projects such as the cruise-ship terminal in Red Hook and the plans for development at Willets Point in Queens will further embellish the boroughs.

Many older neighborhoods have suffered as the city lost manufacturing jobs over the last quarter-century. During the Bloomberg years, however, they have shown a tentative and hopefully permanent revival. Some Manhattan-based businesses are moving across the river to places like Long Island City, which is already home to a large Citigroup presence.

Meanwhile, City Hall has been reaching out to community leaders in blighted communities like Coney Island, hoping to revive the local economies there with smart, appropriate economic development.

Other opportunities are beginning to present themselves. The city will soon announce a new development in the long-suffering Jamaica section of Queens, a neighborhood that ought to benefit from its role as a vital rail-transportation hub. And plans are in the making for a science park along the East River near Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan.

Mr. Bloomberg’s attention to the communities outside of Manhattan is important, economically and politically. New York City is not just Manhattan, and thousands of city residents will be helped by the Mayor’s plans. They also will be inclined to view the Mayor as somebody who understands the outer boroughs. And that will pay off on Election Day this fall.

skinnyblueline Patakis M.T.A. Puts City at Risk

Love and Madness

Surely falling in love is the most wonderful of experiences, while mental illness is one of the most terrible. But new research, in which brain-scan images of people in love are being studied, shows that the two states may have a lot in common. Published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, the study suggests that romantic love acts on the brain in a similar way to hunger, thirst and craving and can produce wildly irrational behavior, particularly when there is a threat of the love being withdrawn. Rather than being an expansion of sexual desire, it seems that romantic love may have its own distinct neurobiology that drives one to euphoria and despair and stimulates issues of survival.

Indeed, the “hot spots” of the brain that are active in passionate love didn’t correlate with the regions of the brain that are active in physical desire, affection or excitement. Instead, they lay closer to the primal, reward-driven areas of the brain associated with such basic functions as eating and drinking. So any danger to a relationship can sometimes feel, to the brain, like a threat to the person’s basic survival. In fact, when the researchers looked at brain images of people who had recently been rejected by their lovers, they actually found a surge in the passionate-love region—which explains why a rejected lover often feels like he or she is falling even more deeply in love with the departing beloved, the way a drug addict’s craving increases during withdrawal.

Of course, Shakespeare knew all this, as he wrote, “The course of true love never did run smooth …. ” And, even more to the point: “Love is a familiar; Love is a devil; there is no evil angel but Love.”