Right Track Coalition, 2.0
As several major Long Island Rail Road projects head down the track toward completion later this year, the railroad’s interim president Catherine Rinaldi spoke in Melville Thursday to the Long Island Association — and gave LIA members a mission.
As Rinaldi described the benefits of the East Side Access connection to Grand Central Terminal, via a new terminal to be known as Grand Central Madison, along with the LIRR Third Track and improvements to Penn Station, she was addressing friends and fans. The Long Island business community has supported the improvements and played an instrumental role in the Right Track for Long Island Coalition, formed to push for the LIRR Third Track.
And Rinaldi knew it.
“When I left the railroad in 2011, ‘third track’ was as dead as dead could be … There was really no expectation that that project would ever be built,” Rinaldi said, recalling community opposition to the 10 miles of track between Hicksville and Floral Park. “Thanks to the advocacy of the people in this room, thanks to the Long Island business community, that project is months away from completion.”
So, Rinaldi came prepared — with an ask of the LIA members and a bit of in-kind payment.
“But your work is not yet done,” Rinaldi said. “We would love it for you to join us in terms of talking about the benefits of these projects to Long Island, to the Long Island economy, to Long Island jobs.”
“You have been the cheerleaders that we’ve relied on all these years, and we would look to you to have your cheerleading days continue through the fall,” Rinaldi added.
That effort, she suggested, should start immediately, especially since preliminary LIRR schedules showing timetable changes at Penn, and the addition of Grand Central Madison, were released Thursday afternoon. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has announced it will hold three public information sessions on June 23, June 30 and July 7, to discuss the changes and prepare riders for what’s to come, and a fourth session that will include room for public comment, on July 13.
Rinaldi rattled off statistics that show how train capacity across all lines will increase once Grand Central Madison opens. The number of rush-hour morning trains will go from 76 to 120, while afternoon rush-hour trains will increase from 98 to 158. Trains making the reverse commute will increase from 81 to 134.
The MTA said Thursday that the total number of trains per weekday will rise from 665 to 939, a 41% increase.
MTA officials are hoping about half of LIRR commuters who now use Penn Station will use Grand Central instead. So, the authority plans to run 10 fewer trains into Penn Station during the morning rush, although the evening hours will still add a few trains leaving Penn. Meanwhile, the MTA is adding to the reverse commute, especially on the Main Line, to the point where trains heading in the reverse peak direction could leave every 30 minutes, compared with as high as 93 minutes now.
Rinaldi offered LIA attendees “swag” — T-shirts and bags adorned with the new moniker, Grand Central Madison.
“Wear it proudly to convince people that they should take these trains to Grand Central,” she said. “It’s going to change the region, it’s going to change the economy.”
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
Dem ‘frenemies’ face off first
The first debate in the Democratic primary for governor airs Thursday night on Spectrum News, in the absence of a main topic of conversation, incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul. She has signed on to two forums — one next Tuesday, June 7, hosted by CBS, and the other on Thursday, June 16, hosted by NBC.
This initial faceoff at 7 p.m. will therefore feature her two insurgent challengers, Rep. Tom Suozzi and NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Both of course are critics of Hochul, who as lieutenant governor succeeded Andrew M. Cuomo when he resigned last summer — but both are clearly playing to different political sensibilities within the party.
In public statements leading up to debate time, Williams and Suozzi agreed, albeit separately, on the point that they can win the nomination and the election because Hochul has failed in office and was never elected to her current job before.
An early sample of their likely pitches: Williams, who carries the banner of the Working Families Party, told the City & State website: ‘l’ll tell you right off the bat in the budget we asked for a billion dollars to be put in the budget for gun violence prevention and victim services. We didn’t get that. What we did get was a billion dollars for a stadium to be built in Buffalo, outside of the city actually dealing with the most problems.”
Williams said some politicians use the term progressive as a slur rather than a positive.
Suozzi, billing himself as a moderate in a party he sees as catering too much to the left, had spokesman Jason Elan telling The Point in a statement Thursday afternoon: “Kathy Hochul has not been elected governor and knows she can’t defend her failed record on crime and taxes, but that won’t stop Suozzi from presenting his vision for how he’ll make New York a safer and more affordable place to live.
“It’s a big mistake for her to skip the debate because Democratic voters will finally see that Tom Suozzi is the only candidate in this race who can beat Lee Zeldin or any other Republican.”
Back in 2018, Hochul beat Williams in the primary for lieutenant governor, with 768,029 votes statewide to her opponent’s 669,068, or 53% to 47%.
On Wednesday night, the candidates for LG debated on WPIX, and in a parallel development, Hochul running mate Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado didn’t attend. That left Suozzi’s preferred running mate in the election, Diana Reyna, and Williams’ ally Ana María Archila, seeking to build voter recognition in his absence.
A four-way Republican primary debate for governor is set for June 13, expected to feature Zeldin, Andrew Giuliani, Rob Astorino and Harry Wilson.
The verbal crossfire in the run-up to the June 28 statewide primary is up and running.
— Dan Janison @Danjanison
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Proposed in 1958: Secretary for the Arts
Early last year, optimism bloomed that President Joe Biden might create a Secretary of Arts and Culture position in his cabinet. The new president clearly appreciated the arts (check his citations of Irish poets in his speeches and his comfort in the company of creators). And the campaign to establish such a post had long been underway. Music legend Quincy Jones, for example, tried in vain to convince President Barack Obama to create such a position.
But Newsday’s editorial board was way ahead of this cultural curve. It made the pitch for an arts advocate 64 years ago, in an editorial on June 2, 1958 titled “Secretary for the Arts.”
The impetus was what the board called the “astounding success” of American pianist Van Cliburn in Russia — the 23-year-old Texan had recently won the first International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow with what is considered a legendary performance of the composer’s First Piano Concerto in the final round.
Consider the backdrop. It was the height of the Cold War, Russia had launched its Sputnik satellite the previous fall, beating the U.S. into space, and now wanted to showcase its cultural superiority over the decadent West.
Cliburn wrecked those plans, and became a hero at home. He was given a ticker-tape parade up Broadway, still the only musician to merit that honor.
“It is fine that Cliburn was a hit in Russia, thereby helping to disprove the assiduously-fostered Red notion that Americans have no culture,” the board wrote. “But it is more than a little too bad that it took a foreign country to remind us that the arts are just as important as guided missiles, nuclear scientists, or manufacturers of fat, puffy motor cars out in Detroit.”
The board noted fine work done by private foundations in “recognizing and subsidizing talent” but said more funding was needed, concluding that this “can be undertaken only by government.” For backup, the board cited France, Germany and Italy among countries where the arts had been subsidized by government funding for nearly 100 years.
“Isn’t the answer, therefore, to give cabinet status to an official patron of the arts, representing the United States government?” the board asked.
Backers of such a position still have a strong case to make. Arts and culture is an $878 billion industry that employs more than 5 million workers and contributes 4.5% to the nation’s gross domestic product, more than agriculture or transportation. But federal funding for the arts — $167.5 million through the National Endowment for the Arts — remains tiny compared to expenditures for those two areas.
Back in 1958, the editorial board suggested federal funds be disbursed through the states, which it said “would require panels of disinterested citizens to distribute the money” — as if any citizens have ever been disinterested when it comes to spending public dollars. And the board was confident how such disbursements would proceed: “No doubt New York would choose the abstractions of Jackson Pollock while Nevada showered its largesse on a cowboy artist.”
Van Cliburn was not the last American artist to first find acceptance abroad. But little did Newsday’s editorial board at that time know that America was about to spread its cultural influence around the world with a different musical endeavor.
That one was called rock ‘n’ roll.