Memo to M.T.A.: Meet Ray Kelly

It was less than a year ago that Islamist terrorists conducted bomb attacks on London’s subway and bus systems, a deadly assault that spread fear through that great city and left New Yorkers on edge. Having endured the worst terrorist attack in world history on 9/11, city residents are under no illusion that New York doesn’t remain a prime target. Yet according to a new report by State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is more than a year behind its own schedule to beef up the security of our subways, buses, trains, bridges and tunnels. Of the five high-priority projects that were meant to be finished by now, the M.T.A. has completed only one, according to Mr. Hevesi. This disregard for the safety of millions of residents and commuters is appalling.

The M.T.A. is accumulating a record of mediocre leadership and dangerous dawdling. Headlines were made last year when it was reported that, of the $600 million which the authority had committed toward upgrading security since 2002, only $30 million had been spent, most of that going toward consultants and high-minded studies. The shockingly slow ramping-up of transportation security shows that Governor George Pataki and his handpicked M.T.A. board are asleep at the switch. Around the same time last year, it was revealed that the authority had walked away from a deal with the U.S. Army to explore installing the latest anti-terrorism technology—including smart cameras, infrared sensors and radars—in our mass-transit system.

Governor Pataki has been spending a lot of time trying to put his stamp on Ground Zero, the solemn rebirth of which he hopes to use as a platform on which to run for President in 2008. But in addition to honoring those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, the Governor might want to direct his energy toward protecting the New Yorkers who are depending on the M.T.A. to get its act together. George W. Bush also bears a fair portion of the blame: His administration has directed most of its security spending toward the airports, while leaving our cities’ mass-transit infrastructure perilously undefended.

One big step in the right direction would be to follow Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s suggestion of giving Police Commissioner Ray Kelly a seat on the M.T.A.’s board. It’s an excellent, common-sense idea. Commissioner Kelly has assembled the best set of security and anti-terrorism experts in the region, if not the world. There ought to be one smart person on the authority’s board who understands the importance of preventing attacks on our city. Mr. Pataki and the State Legislature should act now and give Mr. Kelly a seat at the table.

Clock’s Ticking on Trash

The city has been trying to figure out a long-term plan for its garbage for 20 years. Back in the Koch administration, people who worried about issues like solid-waste management were talking about building what they called “resource-recovery plants”—in plain English, incinerators. The idea went nowhere; communities and interest groups successfully killed the plan.

Over the years, the city’s disposal crisis has only gotten worse. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani didn’t help matters when he abruptly closed the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island—the last dumping ground for the city’s residential waste. Since then, we’ve been exporting our garbage, mostly by truck.

Last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg won a rare victory on this sensitive issue when he put in place a long-term strategy for dealing with trash disposal. A key part of the plan called for the construction of two marine transfer stations on the West Side of Manhattan. There, commercial and recyclable waste would be transferred from trucks to barges and taken away. Barges are a good deal more efficient, safer and more environmentally sound than trucks.

This part of the plan, however, has run into obstacles. West Side residents and some environmental activists are opposing the proposed West Side sites because of their proximity to the Hudson River Park. The recycling transfer station would be located at Pier 52, near Gansevoort Street. The commercial-waste transfer station is proposed for 59th Street, at the northern end of the park. Residents, activists and politicians say that the two stations would have a negative effect on park users.

Unfortunately, nobody likes these kinds of projects. But the fact remains that a marine transfer station must be built, by definition, on the waterfront. The city chose these sites for a reason: The Sanitation Department already has a presence at these locations.

It’s time the city got moving with Mr. Bloomberg’s long-term vision to resolve the city’s solid-waste crisis. Officials have been ducking this issue for too many years, and the problem is not going to go away. Mr. Bloomberg had the courage to come up with a viable way to resolve this decidedly unglamorous and politically difficult issue. This would be the perfect moment for new City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to rouse her members and put the plan into action.

Marriage Versus Your Heart

In the midst of a marital spat, it’s not uncommon for one spouse to accuse the other of being hard-hearted. New research is showing that this might be more than a metaphor: A study of 150 healthy, older married couples found that women who are hostile during arguments with their husbands are more likely to have atherosclerosis, a hardening of the coronary arteries. Indeed, the more hostile a woman’s comments were, the greater extent the calcification of her arteries. The women also showed increased atherosclerosis if their husbands were hostile.

Curiously, the presence of hostility on either side of a spousal argument did not correspond with atherosclerosis among men. Instead, men’s hearts showed atherosclerosis as a result of dominant or controlling behavior—either their own or their wives’. “The only group of men that had very little atherosclerosis were those where both they and their wives were able to talk about a disagreement without being controlling at all,” said psychologist and researcher Timothy Smith. “So the absence of a power play in the conversation seemed to be heart protective for men.”

To put it simply, arguments suffused with hostility are bad for women’s hearts, while conflicts over control are bad for men’s hearts. For both men and women, the researchers noted, “marital quality seems to make a difference in heart health.” And while conflict is inevitable in any marriage, the way a couple chooses to fight may have a direct impact on each partner’s longevity and physical well-being.

How did the researchers get the couples to argue? It was simple: They simply sat them down at a table and asked them to discuss topics such as money, in-laws and children. None of the participants had a history of cardiovascular disease, though some were told to see their doctors when the study was over, since atherosclerosis indicates increased risk of a heart attack. Equally to the point, some couples were urged to see a marriage counselor right away.