The “Tale of Two Storms” is the latest urban adventure to hit Queens
The Blizzard That Wasn’t roared into the Big Apple last week on the back of meteorologists’ dire predictions of record snowfall, prompting the governor to lock up the entire transit system without consulting Mayor de Blasio ahead of time. Gov. Cuomo is the big man at the MTA, so the buck stops with him, but it would be nice if our mayor had been given more advance warning. That way he could have shared the public’s ire and occasional praise with his Albany overseer.
The shutdown and the curfew for cars on city streets worked like magic, creating a winter wonderland as the storm dumped a foot or so in Queens — far short of the crepe-hanging forecasts. Straphangers were inconvenienced and the economy suffered, but the next day the giant transit system rumbled back to life and was running normally within 24 hours.
Whether the governor should have closed down the city’s transit lifeline is open to debate, but this week’s storm raised serious questions about the MTA’s ability to operate during challenging winter weather.
The nasty snow and ice number swept into the city Monday, saving weather forecasters’ tarnished reputations by delivering a few inches of snow, freezing rain and bone-chilling temps as they had predicted. Queens remained open for business, schools and shopping, but the MTA was not ready to serve the riding public.
It was a transit nightmare for Queens commuters trying against all odds to travel to and from Manhattan — not to mention within the borough.
Somehow an umbrella caught fire on the third rail of the Manhattan-bound No. 7 line outside Woodside Monday, forcing MTA workers to shut off power as they removed the item only to have the rail freeze. Thousands of passengers were stranded in outdoor stations and in halted No. 7 trains for hours.
How could an errant umbrella cause such misery? The MTA owes us an explanation.
Adding to the chaos, LIRR trains were running with major delays and cancellations were routine. Some buses in Flushing never showed. Frozen signals stopped subways dead in their tracks at points in Queens.
Both storms brought grief to the borough. But we want to know why the MTA was not better prepared for the second rather unremarkable winter event.
The agency, saddled with a huge deficit, is engaged in a major subway maintenance program, but new equipment is desperately needed. It’s time for the city and state to give more money to the aging transit system. The latest fare hike is a Band-Aid. We need reliable transportation from A to B regardless of all but the most extreme weather.