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Opinion

A long time coming

A view of a tunnel for the LIRR

A view of a tunnel for the LIRR East Side Access project to Grand Central Terminal, due to open in 2022. Credit: Randi F. Marshall

Daily Point

East Side Access escalating

A new headquarters building for JP Morgan Chase in Manhattan’s Midtown East might, at first, seem not to mean much to Long Island Rail Road passengers.

But an agreement that’s just been finalized between JP Morgan and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority shows that the new building will matter very much to LIRR riders -- particularly those who will use the LIRR’s future East Side Access connection to Grand Central Terminal.

As part of the deal, which MTA Capital Construction chief Janno Lieber discussed during Monday’s MTA committee meetings, JP Morgan will build a new entrance to Grand Central and East Side Access, at 48th Street and Madison Avenue, not far from the new headquarters at 270 Park Avenue. 

JP Morgan plans to demolish its existing headquarters at the same address, a project that impacts East Side Access because part of the building’s basement, foundation walls and structural supports are within Metro North and East Side Access space. Part of the agreement with the MTA also requires the company to coordinate so its construction doesn’t interfere with the already long-delayed East Side Access project.

But even as passengers will have another way into the new station from the street, they’ll need working escalators to bring them down to and from the train platforms. MTA board member Kevin Law raised questions about the escalators, after recent concerns that the escalator company that’s building 47 escalators for East Side Access, some of which stretch as long as 180 feet, failed to properly maintain the relatively new escalators at the Second Avenue Subway stations.

In the first half of 2018, Schindler Elevator Corp. failed to perform 67 percent of the preventative maintenance it was supposed to do on the Second Avenue Subway escalators, according to a recent report from the MTA’s inspector general. And all but three of the 32 escalators failed to stay in service at least 95.2 percent of the time -- the MTA’s goal.

Lieber said the MTA has an option to allow Schindler to be the company to maintain the East Side Access escalators once the project opens. Before such an agreement is made, he said, he hopes to “pre-negotiate” clear terms to avoid some of the Second Avenue Subway problems. 

LIRR riders have waited more than two decades for East Side Access to happen. They should at least get to expect a working escalator when they finally reach their new destination.

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Next on our summer reading list ...

No. 3 in The Point’s presidential contender summer reading was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s “Off The Sidelines.” 

Considering the genre, the book includes surprising things like legitimately interesting details. (In the acknowledgements, Gillibrand thanks her “collaborator,” writer Elizabeth Weil.)

The book was off to an early good start with a shrewd observation about the way you can tell when men stop listening: “their answers become monosyllabic and they tend to agree more.”

The 2014 volume, her only book apart from one for children, has nuggets about her firebrand political grandmother, the embodiment of the Albany machine, and the fact that her first real date with her husband included a “singles” Mass.

Gillibrand writes openly about early-career money issues: making $200,000 a year and trying to decide how much money to spend on political donations to open an avenue for her own political career.  

There’s a brutal chapter on weight and image. One older member of the Senate once squeezed her waist and said he likes his girls “chubby,” she writes, adding that a New York labor leader once told her “you need to be beautiful again” to win a race. 

New York politicos major and minor make appearances, from Rep. Carolyn McCarthy to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (“a very direct and provocative person”).

But two politicians hover over the book. One is Hillary Clinton, who penned a foreword and appears in the book’s pages time and again to offer mentorship. 

The other is “charming” former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, Gillibrand’s former squash partner.

Today, Gillibrand’s drive to inherit Clinton’s Democratic-presidential-nominee mantle has been made rocky thanks to her early call for Franken to resign after reports of sexually inappropriate behavior. 

That behavior was exhaustively covered by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer in an article posted Monday that pokes holes in the original accuser’s story and investigates the circumstances of Franken’s quick fall. 

Gillibrand’s Franken stance resulted in a backlash from donors and others that overshadowed some of the attributes and talents showcased in this book that might have made her a major 2020 contender.

“I’d do it again today,” she tells Mayer. 

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Aging in place

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Quick Points

  • Republicans in the Nassau County Legislature are saying County Executive Laura Curran’s planned five-year phase-in of her countywide property tax reassessment is unfair because people who have overpaid will have to wait those five years to get their full reduction. Funny, the fact that those people were overpaying never bothered them during all of Ed Mangano’s tenure.
  • Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, chair of the House Republican Conference, said her party’s condemnation of the four liberal Democratic congresswomen known as The Squad is not based on their gender, religion or race. Since part of the criticism is that the four women hate America, it’s not based on reality, either.
  • Two former Glen Cove city officials who switched to retiree health benefits to keep their city health insurance coverage despite remaining on the job insist they did nothing wrong. Maybe, maybe not, but it definitely was nauseating. 
  • When asked whether President Donald Trump is a racist, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller said that in reality Trump has been president for all Americans. Which is true only if “in reality” refers to some alternative planet.
  • Britain is trying to decide how to respond to Iran’s seizure of a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. If the Brexit negotiations are any indication, Britain will still be figuring out how to respond next year.
  • Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera says President Donald Trump telling four minority congresswomen to “go back” to their countries of origin even though three of them were born in America shows that Trump’s critics “were much more right than I.” Not a first for Geraldo.
  • What do you call it when Democrats are looking to the witness to save them while Republicans are trying to impugn his reputation? Mueller time.

- Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Columns