Senator Schumer Questions The Integrity Of Doctors

The never ending LIRR Disability Benefits Scandal dubbed the “Gravy Train Scandal” by the New York Post, took another turn today after some elected officials held a meeting with officials of the Railroad Retirement Board. After the meeting, Senator Schumer questioned the integrity of doctors who helped retired LIRR employees cash in on disability benefits. Here is a brief article from The Associated Press:

NEW YORK – Sen. Charles Schumer says the high number of Long Island Rail Road employees collecting disability payments may be due to dishonest doctors.

Schumer and Long Island Rep. Tim Bishop on Friday met privately in New York with members of the Railroad Retirement Board, an obscure federal panel. He said afterward: “There’s a feeling that these doctors were not on the level.”

Four separate investigations are under way after it was reported last month that more than 90 percent of LIRR employees were granted disability payments by an obscure federal board, allowing them to collect huge payments every year.

Schumer and Bishop say they asked the board to immediately take a closer look at who is granted disability payments.

I will check & see if Senator Schumer or any other officials issue a press release to talk about the meeting. As always I will keep up with this story as it continues to unfold.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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New South Ferry Station To Open In December

One of the more unheralded projects being worked on over recent time was the completion of a new South Ferry station/terminal. If you have ever rode the 1 train to South Ferry you are well aware of having to be in the first 5 cars to exit the station. How could any of us ever forget the typical holdup at Chambers St where they give you a chance to move up to the first 5 cars. Well thankfully as of this December, all of those little nuances that made the 1 train what it is will come to end as a new South Ferry station opens. Julie Shapiro of the Downtown Express has more in this report:

The new South Ferry station on the 1 subway line will open in December, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced this week. The new station will be big enough to allow all of the cars to load and unload passengers, so riders will no longer have to rush up to the front of the train.

The new platforms will be straight lines, eliminating the need for the moving platforms in the current station. The new station will have three entrances: at the front of the Staten Island Ferry terminal, on a traffic island in front of the terminal and across the street by Battery Park. The M.T.A. may preserve part of the old station.

Click here for the complete report.

This is a welcome relief to many who use the 1 to reach South Ferry. I feel this project will vastly improve service on the 1 train from terminal to terminal.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Downtown Express Talks About The Fulton Transit Center

The latest issue of the Downtown Express features two transit related stories. The first one looks at how the Fulton Transit Center is stuck in limbo. While it shares the same concerns of being over budget & behind schedule like the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, it does not share any sort of timetable for completion. Julie Shapiro has more in this report:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority still does not know when the Fulton St. Transit Center will be complete or what the completed structure will look like, but Bill Wheeler, the agency’s planning director, promised City Councilmember Alan Gerson answers soon.

Wheeler spoke at a hearing Gerson held Monday focusing on the World Trade Center site, which will have an underground connection to the Fulton St. Transit Center, bringing together a total of 11 subway lines and the PATH trains. Like the W.T.C. projects, the Fulton hub is over budget and behind schedule, but unlike the Port Authority’s candid assessment of the W.T.C. site, the M.T.A. has yet to release a timetable for the transit center.

Click here for the complete report.

Considering the financial crisis the MTA is currently in, does anyone really expect this project to be completed anytime soon? We will be lucky to have this anywhere close to being up & functioning within the next 5-6 years if you ask me.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Credit Crunch Could Possibly Make MTA Debts Skyrocket

The biggest news in the country if the world is the economic woes that have sent shock waves from Main Street to Wall Street. While the focus has been on banks, financial institutions, & such, they are not the only ones who are facing bleak times if things don’t improve. The MTA which is already in enough of a financial mess as it is, finds itself facing the possibility of the skyrocketing interest rates causing their debt payments to by tens of millions of dollars per year. New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue has more in this report:

Skyrocketing interest rates caused by the Wall Street meltdown could raise the MTA’s annual payments by tens of millions of dollars above what was anticipated in its budget plans, experts told the Daily News.

The latest financial headache for the debt-heavy Metropolitan Transportation Authority comes as the authority faces a huge 2009 budget gap and is trying to avoid service cuts.

“The potential impact could be significant,” one expert said.

The best-case scenario would be for government bailout efforts to free up credit and lower interest rates soon.

“If that happens soon – very soon – our budget target for interest cost has a prayer of being met,” said Doreen Frasca, chairwoman of the MTA’s transit committee and the founder of a financial services firm.

In response to an inquiry by The News, the MTA released a statement yesterday stating it is “closely monitoring the credit market in this difficult time. The situation is in such flux that the full impact on our bottom line cannot yet be assessed.”

Click here for the complete report.

This news is terrible for the MTA in a time where such news has become the norm. While the chances of bankruptcy occurring are low, the possibility can not be ruled out if the creditors start to seek their money back in the near future. However that is a real longshot at this point but it illustrates the trying times the agency is currently in.

I personally did not support the bailout plan which rescued many companies who put themselves in their death bed with choices made by greed. While the MTA is no poster child for financial responsibility, the lack of adequate funding from all levels of government is a strong reason why they are in the position they are. Would the government bail them or any other transit agency out? The answer is most likely no & while that comes as no surprise, it still is a crying shame.

Will we ever see the day when government of all levels realizes how an adequately funded & financially stable mass transit infrastructure s is not a luxury but an absolute necessity? Such infrastructures do everyone good from Main Street to Wall Street & should be treated as such. The day they are treated the way they should be is the day our country truly will take a step in the right direction.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Elected Officials To Meet With Railroad Retirement Board Officials

Just a short while ago it was announced that some elected officials, such as New York Senators Chuck Schumer & Hillary Clinton, would have a meeting in Manhattan with officials from the Railroad Retirement Board. Frank A. Castillo of Newsday has more in this report:

Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Timothy Bishop and representatives of Sen. Hillary Clinton are expected to meet Friday in Manhattan with members of the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, the agency criticized for granting disability benefits to nearly all railroad workers who apply for them — including an unusually large number of Long Island Rail Road retirees.

Schumer (D-N.Y.), Clinton (D-N.Y.), Bishop (D- Southampton) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) have joined in drafting a letter to the retirement board, seeking answers to why the number of LIRR employees applying for benefits are “far exceeding what one would expect” and what role doctors and “facilitators” have in preparing workers’ applications.

Click here for the complete article.

This meeting should prove quite interesting & I can’t wait to hear what developments come from it. As always I will post about it as soon as possible.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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