Good morning. It’s Wednesday. The first Long Island Rail Road train bound for Grand Central Terminal was set to make the trip this morning. We’ll look at why it’s a mass transit milestone.
Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
The word for the day is “finally.”
As in, the first Long Island Rail Road train to arrive at Grand Central Terminal is finally due this morning.
The link that will make the trip possible cost three times the original estimate and took longer to complete than the Erie Canal or the transcontinental railroad. “This is an idea that’s been around for 50 years,” Janno Lieber, the chairman and chief executive of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, acknowledged on Tuesday. “It’s a project that’s been under construction since before 2010. It is an idea people wouldn’t believe would ever happen, and it’s happening.”
For the first few weeks, the Long Island Rail Road will run with only limited service between Grand Central and its Jamaica station in Queens. Eventually, passengers can change there for trains on 10 of its 11 branches and zones — and the new line will stop at another station for passengers on the other branch.
The transit authority predicts that the new service will change the way Long Island passengers commute, because about 45 percent of them go to Grand Central. That will reduce what Lieber called “the craziness” at overcrowded Pennsylvania Station, until now the only destination for Long Island trains in Manhattan.
The new service is beginning at a time when transit patterns remain a question mark as many workers continue hybrid work arrangements. Weekday ridership on the Long Island Rail Road averages about 65 percent of prepandemic levels, roughly the same proportion as on the subways. The transit authority has warned that lower revenue could mean a budget gap of nearly $3 billion by 2025, and it is already considering raising the $2.75 base subway and bus fare twice by then — to $2.90 next year and $3.02 in 2025.
Lieber emphasized the time that commuters would save with the Grand Central connection, as did Gov. Kathy Hochul. “Just a 22 minute ride from Jamaica to the East Side of Manhattan!” she tweeted.
But Lieber noted that the time savings would benefit more than Long Islanders, because he said that the Long Island Rail Road has more than 20 stations in Queens. “The goal is to have middle-class and working-class people in distant boroughs get to jobs more quickly,” he said, even though the project “may not have been planned” with that in mind. “It was probably planned for the convenience of Long Islanders,” he said.
The benefits will also go the other way, said Tom Wright, the president and chief executive of the Regional Plan Association, a research and urban-policy advocacy group. Long Island has trailed the rest of the region in economic and population growth “for the last generation,” he said, adding that the Grand Central connection would make reverse commuting to Long Island more convenient than it has been.
Officials had hoped to have trains coming and going at Grand Central Madison, as the new Long Island station is being called, by the end of 2022. There were delays because of “one stupid fan that couldn’t satisfy the air performance requirements because of the weird downdraft from good old Grand Central Station, circa 1912,” Lieber said.
He said the huge station-within-a-station that is the new connection point was the largest rail terminal built in the United States since the mid-1950s. Its runs underground for five blocks, parallel to the street grid above, from East 43rd Street to East 48th Street. The ticket office as at 47th Street.
It is the end point of a project that proved stunningly expensive: A New York Times investigation in 2017 found that the estimated cost of the East Side Access project had jumped to $12 billion, or nearly $3.5 billion for each new mile of track — seven times the average elsewhere in the world.
Federal money for the project was engineered in the late 1990s by former Senator Alfonse D’Amato, a Republican from Long Island, who said he worked with Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat. “Forget that I was a Republican and he was a Democrat,” D’Amato said. “When it came to this state, we worked together. Today, forget it.”
The tracks connect to tunnels under the East River that were started in the 1960s. They were left unfinished in the municipal fiscal crisis of the 1970s, but linking the Long Island Rail Road to the East Side remained a dream of transportation planners, one of those impossible projects like the Second Avenue subway.
But with support from D’Amato and former Gov. George Pataki, the plan was “no longer a transportation planner’s pipe dream but a near-term priority on Capitol Hill,” The New York Times said in 1997.
The first train was scheduled to leave Jamaica at 10:45 a.m. D’Amato said he did not plan to be onboard.
“Nobody has invited me,” he said, before beginning a tirade about the transit authority. “They’re going to celebrate something that took 40 years where it should have taken 10.”
Prepare for a chance of snow, then rain, with temperatures near the mid-40s. At night, rain continues with possible thunderstorms. It will be a breezy evening with temps around the low 40s.
In effect until Feb. 13 (Lincoln’s Birthday).
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Former gynecologist found guilty of luring women to his office
A former Manhattan gynecologist who was accused of sexual abuse by dozens of women was convicted by a federal jury of inducing patients to cross state lines for what they believed were routine examinations during which he sexually assaulted them.
My colleagues Hurubie Meko and Brittany Kriegstein write that the federal charges against the former gynecologist — Robert Hadden, who has not worked as a doctor since 2012 — stemmed from assaults on four patients who traveled from New Jersey, Nevada and Pennsylvania for appointments.
Hadden had previously admitted to touching patients in a state-court plea agreement that did not require him to spend time behind bars. That infuriated scores of women who said he had preyed on them.
The conviction on the four counts he had faced was, for some, a measure of justice delayed but finally delivered. Marissa Hochstetter, a victim who was in court throughout the trial, wrote in an email on Tuesday that the verdict “does not undo the harm that Hadden and his employers caused hundreds of women and girls over decades.”
“It does send a strong message that what happened was wrong and that survivors’ voices do matter,” she said.
As the verdict was read, sobs were heard throughout the courtroom from a row of victims that included Evelyn Yang, the wife of the former presidential candidate Andrew Yang. After the jury was escorted out, Hadden turned to hug his family and supporters in the first row of the gallery. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 25. Each of the four counts carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.
“Robert Hadden was a predator in a white coat,” Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.
‘Bells are ringing’
On a Saturday in September in 1958, my mother took me to a matinee of “Bells Are Ringing,” starring Judy Holliday, to celebrate my 10th birthday.
I was in heaven: a day alone with my mother, lunch at the Automat and my first Broadway show.
We climbed to our seats in the top row of the balcony, the orchestra started up and Ms. Holliday began to sing. It seemed as if she was looking straight at me.
“Mama,” I said, “you told her it was my birthday!”
Years later I realized that Ms. Holliday was simply looking out into the center of the audience. Still, my belief in my mother’s superpowers was never stronger than it was that day.
— Susan Rutberg
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected]