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Relief for New York City’s Transit Deserts? Commuter Trains Might Help

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Yes, maybe take a page out of the rest of the world...

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/10/nyregion/commuter-trains-nyc.html

 

Quote

 

Relief for New York City’s Transit Deserts? Commuter Trains Might Help

By Winnie Hu

Jan. 10, 2019

 

Even when there are no subway delays, it takes Amy Sacks at least an hour and 20 minutes to get to work in the Bronx.

The problem is that the subway still leaves her about a mile — and a bus ride away — from her office. “There’s always a transfer unless I use my feet for the second half,” said Ms. Sacks, a writer who lives in Manhattan.

But the key to a shorter, easier commute lies just outside her office door: railroad tracks that run through the Bronx.

The tracks are used by Amtrak trains, but would be opened to new commuter trains under a billion-dollar expansion by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of rail service linking Manhattan with suburbs north of New York City. Four new train stations for the Metro-North Railroad would be built along the line in the eastern Bronx, where subway service is sparse and buses are often slow and unreliable.

The aboveground rails that crisscross the city are increasingly being seen as a way to alleviate some of New York’s most pressing transportation problems. City leaders and transit advocates say commuter trains could be put into service to fill transit gaps and reduce congestion on subways, buses and roads. In neighborhoods where new train stations are built, new jobs, housing and development could follow.

“It leverages important assets that are already there and underutilized rather than having to build anew,” said Danny Pearlstein, a spokesman for the Riders Alliance, a grass-roots organization of transit riders. “It saves money and time, and it brings new services online that we might not have access to — or at least not in a generation.”

There are 38 Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road stations in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, many in neighborhoods with sparse subway and bus service, according to a recent analysis by the city comptroller, Scott M. Stringer. But the comptroller noted that there is limited service at those stations, or tickets are priced so much higher than subway and bus fares that residents cannot afford them.

Mr. Stringer and transit advocates have suggested pricing commuter trains within the city the same as subways — $2.75 for a ride, including free transfers to subways and buses — to encourage more riders.

Transportation authority officials said they have been reviewing these issues and are conducting a pricing study on some Long Island Rail Road trains in Brooklyn and Queens. Since 2004, the price of commuter train trips within the five boroughs has been lowered on weekends through a program called City Ticket, which officials say has contributed to increasing ridership.

Ridership in general on Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road has increased to the highest levels in decades, resulting in overcrowding. But transportation authority officials said projects are underway to significantly expand service, including building a new terminal underneath Grand Central Terminal with eight new tracks for Long Island Rail Road trains. The authority is also moving to add tracks on Long Island and run more trains across the region.

New York’s rail network has also become part of the debate over congestion pricing, which would charge drivers a fee to enter Manhattan neighborhoods at peak traffic times to raise money primarily for fixing the subways. Both supporters and opponents have called for expanding rail service outside Manhattan to provide an alternative to those who drive because they do not have easy access to subways and buses.

A state panel recently recommended expanding Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road service in transit deserts in the Bronx and Queens. Though that would likely increase the transportation authority’s costs and lengthen commutes for suburban riders who would have to sit through more stops, the report concluded that the idea, while complicated, was worth pursuing.

“The importance of opening up commuter rails has really come to people’s attention,” said Kathryn Wylde, the chairwoman of the panel, who is the president of the Partnership for New York City, a group of top business leaders. “In places where there is no subway service and lousy bus service, they’re watching these nice commuter trains roll right through their neighborhood without stopping. It’s pouring salt in the wounds.”

In the Bronx, the M.T.A. plans to offer new commuter service by expanding and improving railroad tracks that are owned by Amtrak and run between Pennsylvania Station in Midtown Manhattan and New Rochelle in Westchester County. It would build four new stations on Amtrak-owned property in the neighborhoods of Morris Park, Parkchester, Co-op City and Hunts Point.

The authority’s capital plan includes $695 million for the project — roughly half the estimated cost — including $250 million that was provided by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. The remainder will be covered in the authority’s future capital plans, Aaron Donovan, an authority spokesman, said.

Tom Wright, the president of Regional Plan Association, a transportation research and policy group, said the new commuter line would increase the passenger capacity of the rail network across the New York region, and give all riders — not only those in the Bronx — more transit options if a catastrophe were to cripple subway and suburban commuter train service.

“Right now we’re using the system above capacity, so it doesn’t have any give from those kinds of shocks,” he said.

The line could begin service as early as 2023. But in recent months, the project has stalled as M.T.A. officials have been unable to reach an agreement with Amtrak to use the tracks. Mr. Cuomo has met with Amtrak officials to try to resolve differences, an aide said.

Amtrak has demanded that the transportation authority pay additional money to use the tracks and repair a bridge along the line, Mr. Donovan said. Amtrak faces major financial challenges to upgrade its aging network.

“They’re just trying to milk it,” said Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, whose office has collected more than 5,000 petition signatures urging Amtrak to “get on board.” “Amtrak still thinks we are in the age of the robber barons. They need to stop playing monopoly with the commuters of the city.”

Jason Abrams, an Amtrak spokesman, said Amtrak and the transportation authority had met frequently in recent months to try to reach agreement on key issues such as design, construction and train operations “to ensure that the proposed expansion of Metro-North service does not adversely impact Amtrak intercity passenger rail operation.”

He said that Amtrak will significantly expand in 2021, with more high-speed Acela service between New York and Boston, and that the Metro-North project must be integrated with other transportation projects in the city and region.

Still, city officials have forged ahead to lay the groundwork for new streetscapes and developments around the stations in the Bronx, New York’s fastest growing borough with more than 1.4 million residents. Nearly one-third of them live within a mile of one of the proposed four stations, according to city planners.

Israel Nazario, 64, a retired stagehand, said he moved to Parkchester in 2008 partly because he heard that a Metro-North station was coming. He has to walk 10 blocks to the closest subway station. The train station would be about a block away.

“I’ll save my legs because my legs aren’t what they used to be,” he said. “And instead of taking 40 minutes to get downtown, it’ll take me 20 minutes.”

During a recent community meeting, city planners displayed maps and diagrams showing the Morris Park station as an anchor for a medical and science hub. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to have this level of investment in transportation infrastructure,” said Carol Samol, the Bronx director for the city’s Planning Department.

Ms. Sacks, who lives in Greenwich Village and works at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Morris Park, said direct train service from Penn Station could cut in half her nearly three-hour round-trip commute.

“Besides the time, it’s very stressful because we’re always stopping,” she said. “We’re stuck often, and the trains are crowded and loud.”

 

 

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I agree that we could more with the commuter rails, and that railroad prices are hurtful towards most city residents, but $2.75 is too low. 

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Borough President Díaz can take a few minutes to give other transportation issues in his borough a look. Sick of him focusing on this one damn project. Focus on improving subway and bus service!!

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Very simply, we need something like the London Overground here (a service level that is in between subway and commuter rail) and we have the existing infrastructure to do it (I'm looking at you Bay Ridge Branch)

Edited by Around the Horn
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What exactly are the technical aspects of this plan? Are they creating new capacity, drawing new routes, or just adding stations?

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4 hours ago, CenSin said:

What exactly are the technical aspects of this plan? Are they creating new capacity, drawing new routes, or just adding stations?

The arguments are that as the new commuter rail infrastructure comes online (East Side Access, then Penn Station Access) there will be more spare capacity on tracks to Manhattan. At least for the LIRR this is true, since they plan to double service into Manhattan on Day 1, and I have a hard time seeing how some of these branches will be anywhere close to capacity (say, Far Rock, Long Beach, West Hempstead)

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There's so much more you can do with heavy rail infrastructure in the region. Along with long(er) distance comm rail ops, there should be a fleet of heavy rail, higher cap rolling stock (ie more doors/fewer seats) which overlays on the long distance stuff in the 'inner ring' of suburbs/in the city at higher frequencies. The density and latent demand is there, you just have to serve it properly. 

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On 1/11/2019 at 9:45 PM, BM5 via Woodhaven said:

....and that railroad prices are hurtful towards most city residents

Which is by design..... Keep those filthy, icky, city poverty-stricken slickers off "our" trains....

Funny how the salaries they earn (and I say earn, loosely) & the recreation (i.e., nightlife) that even enables the lot of these closed-minded vacuous f***in muppets to function in life & even reside in suburbia, isn't filthy, icky, etc. though.....

On 1/11/2019 at 10:28 PM, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

Borough President Díaz can take a few minutes to give other transportation issues in his borough a look. Sick of him focusing on this one damn project. Focus on improving subway and bus service!!

Yeah, I've long been annoyed by the rail-centric rhetoric in this city also.....

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19 hours ago, bobtehpanda said:

The arguments are that as the new commuter rail infrastructure comes online (East Side Access, then Penn Station Access) there will be more spare capacity on tracks to Manhattan. At least for the LIRR this is true, since they plan to double service into Manhattan on Day 1, and I have a hard time seeing how some of these branches will be anywhere close to capacity (say, Far Rock, Long Beach, West Hempstead)

I've heard that "double" service into Manhattan idea being mentioned quite frequently but the other part of the equation isn't mentioned as much. Talking about the orphaning of today's Atlantic Branch. Look at the money recently spent to renovate the Flatbush Avenue terminal and the renaming of it to Atlantic Terminal. The structure work between Bedford Avenue and Ralph Avenue as well as the ongoing renovation of the Nostrand Avenue station. With this ESA gimmick monopolizing the LIRR/ (MTA) convo the spotlight dims on the other projects somewhat. Those trains that now terminate in Brooklyn are being re-routed into Manhattan. What about the ridership that presently utilizes those trains you ask ? They'll now have the luxury of detraining at Jamaica and transferring to a Brooklyn bound train, located not cross platform but in a newly constructed platform area (not) nearby. I guess those re-routes will have plenty of seating heading to Manhattan when their core ridership leaves at Sutphin. Likewise those direct trains from PJ, Babylon, and Ronkonkoma to Atlantic terminal will be history so their riders will have to make that new trek at Sutphin too. BTW those diesels that terminate at Jamaica, Hunterspoint, and LIC aren't welcome at Penn or GC either. Oh, before I forget, those double-decker  passenger cars can't fit in the 63rd St tunnel into Manhattan toward Grand Central. Meanwhile the (MTA) has a third track proposal in Nassau County on the board, a completed Second Track project in Suffolk on the Ronkonkoma Branch, discussions about additional MNRR service in the Bronx along with Amtrak. All of these ideas, the Prince talking about " blowing up" the (MTA) , as my man Marvin Gaye said " What's Going On" ? Not to mention SAS. For once I have to agree with the Prince. Don't blame LIRR, MNRR, NYCT, blame the (MTA)  itself for this ongoing, convoluted disjointed regional planning concerning downstate transportation. I think we need someone with vision, and clout, in charge. Just my diatribe/ opinion. Carry on.

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8 hours ago, B35 via Church said:

Which is by design..... Keep those filthy, icky, city poverty-stricken slickers off "our" trains....

If the trend of rising homeless population in the subways is anything to go by, I’d say that the railroad policy of erecting barriers to transportation is justifiable. No discrimination leads to a melting pot like the subway where folks have to ride with all sorts of garbage.

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2 minutes ago, CenSin said:

If the trend of rising homeless population in the subways is anything to go by, I’d say that the railroad policy of erecting barriers to transportation is justifiable. No discrimination leads to a melting pot like the subway where folks have to ride with all sorts of garbage.

Please tell me you aren't serious. You'd actually allow the elitism of some suburbanites to trump a greater good for the city? 

And you really think the solution to the homeless issue on the subway is more discrimination? 

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2 minutes ago, RR503 said:

Please tell me you aren't serious. You'd actually allow the elitism of some suburbanites to trump a greater good for the city? 

And you really think the solution to the homeless issue on the subway is more discrimination? 

From the look of things on the subways, there is definitely no discrimination occurring. If anything the homeless are setting up shop and taking over as they please.  Took the (E) yesterday. Several homeless guys in various cars. The "new" 72nd street subway along Central Park South had a homeless person set up right on the platform, and this is something that is becoming more and more common throughout the system.

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Just now, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

From the look of things on the subways, there is definitely no discrimination occurring. If anything the homeless are setting up shop and taking over as they please.  Took the (E) yesterday. Several homeless guys in various cars. The "new" 72nd street subway along Central Park South had a homeless person set up right on the platform, and this is something that is becoming more and more common throughout the system.

Not at all contesting that. I'm just saying the way to solve the homeless issue is not barring homeless from the system. It's fixing the homeless problem -- more housing, more shelters, more outreach. 

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5 minutes ago, RR503 said:

Not at all contesting that. I'm just saying the way to solve the homeless issue is not barring homeless from the system. It's fixing the homeless problem -- more housing, more shelters, more outreach. 

I'd argue that the riding public has a right to ride without being hassled for money. I for one am sick of it. Every single weekend I take the damn subway now, there's some homeless person begging.  Took the (2) train for a few stops.  Guy gets on as filthy as can be on his knees begging for money. I just walked by him before he could even ask. I'm all for helping the homeless, but the finger pointing should be going to de Blasio. He's spending TONS of money and nothing is being fixed to address the crisis, and the liberals will blame everyone else as usual.  He promised all of this "affordable housing" that is far from affordable, and on top of that he's arrogant about it. This video of him is disgusting, and shows exactly who he is: 

A lot of these homeless folks are druggies.

His workout always takes priority over everything else...

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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Just now, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

I'd argue that the riding public has a right to ride without being hassled for money. I for one am sick of it. Every single weekend I take the damn subway now, there's some homeless person begging.  Took the (2) train for a few stops.  Guy gets on as filthy as can be on his knees begging for money. I just walked by him before he could even ask. I'm all for helping the homeless, but the finger pointing should be going to de Blasio. He's spending TONS of money and nothing is being fixed to address the crisis, and the liberals will blame everyone else as usual.  He promised all of this "affordable housing" that is far from affordable, and on top of that he's arrogant about it. This video of him is disgusting, and shows exactly who he is: 

Unless you straight up arrest all of them, punting them from the subway won't make them go away. We'll just have more homeless on the streets -- which means more exposure deaths. 

Blaming just DeBlasio is quite reductive. Much of the reason we are having such an issue with the homeless is because people don't want to see them, but also don't want to deal with solutions for the issue -- ie shelters/housing. Bob Holden in Queens got elected basically on the promise that he'd stop the construction of a homeless shelter and would generally oppose development. The same sentiments holds true across the city; people want cheap houses and fewer homeless folks, but are as of yet unwilling to see more development and more shelters. Until that disconnect is fixed, the problem only will get worse. 

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9 minutes ago, RR503 said:

Unless you straight up arrest all of them, punting them from the subway won't make them go away. We'll just have more homeless on the streets -- which means more exposure deaths. 

Blaming just DeBlasio is quite reductive. Much of the reason we are having such an issue with the homeless is because people don't want to see them, but also don't want to deal with solutions for the issue -- ie shelters/housing. Bob Holden in Queens got elected basically on the promise that he'd stop the construction of a homeless shelter and would generally oppose development. The same sentiments holds true across the city; people want cheap houses and fewer homeless folks, but are as of yet unwilling to see more development and more shelters. Until that disconnect is fixed, the problem only will get worse. 

The problem again is with de Blasio.  There are places to put homeless shelters without destroying neighborhoods in the process. Having transients in and out of neighborhoods near schools where children are is a big mistake.  If de Blasio wants to spread the wealth by having homeless shelters throughout the City, he'd put some in Park Slope, you know where he lives, but he won't do that. The hypocrisy of this administration isn't surprising.  He talks about the tale of two cities, yet he benefits from it. Look at how little he pays in property taxes.  I could show other examples, but I don't want so as not to stray from the topic, but you get my point.

I laugh because there are liberals out here that can't stand the guy. I had a lady at a meeting I had to attend with the City recently foaming at the mouth about how she hated the guy and she said was a long-time Democrat, but couldn't bring herself to vote for him.  I had to hold myself from bursting out laughing.

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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15 minutes ago, RR503 said:

Bob Holden in Queens got elected basically on the promise that he'd stop the construction of a homeless shelter and would generally oppose development. The same sentiments holds true across the city; people want cheap houses and fewer homeless folks, but are as of yet unwilling to see more development and more shelters. Until that disconnect is fixed, the problem only will get worse. 

Yes, because the community was being basically forced to deal with said  the homeless shelter, which also did not have the proper stuff needed to house people (something about microwaves or a kitchen or something about those lines). 

Also, not every place needs to be developed. We don't want to see our neighborhood turn into the next Williamsburg. This mayor has been too busy with pleasing those luxury apartment owners. There's enough of them already, and many do not even look very full. That's the only development that is happening. There are no other development besides this, and in mass. This mayor does not care about poorer folks, like he claims to do. 

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5 minutes ago, BM5 via Woodhaven said:

Yes, because the community was being basically forced to deal with said  the homeless shelter, which also did not have the proper stuff needed to house people (something about microwaves or a kitchen or something about those lines). 

Also, not every place needs to be developed. We don't want to see our neighborhood turn into the next Williamsburg. This mayor has been too busy with pleasing those luxury apartment owners. There's enough of them already, and many do not even look very full. That's the only development that is happening. There are no other development besides this, and in mass. This mayor does not care about poorer folks, like he claims to do. 

You can say that again. His campaign was bought by developers, but the liberals will swear up and down that he gives a damn about the homeless.  Homelessness is worse under this mayor than the previous ones, and the City is spending money like no tomorrow supposedly to "address the problem", which makes it even worse. Just look at the rents for so called "affordable housing".  I'll soon be paying about $1,700 - 1,800 for my apartment, perhaps more, but I am paying market rate rent, yet some "affordable housing units" will go for that or more. How exactly is that "affordable" for a poor person? 

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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34 minutes ago, RR503 said:

Not at all contesting that. I'm just saying the way to solve the homeless issue is not barring homeless from the system. It's fixing the homeless problem -- more housing, more shelters, more outreach. 

The problem is that you can make all the resources available, but you can't make people use them.

These homeless do know of the resources available, but they deliberately choose not to use them - because they'd have to obey house rules: shoes for blankets and pillows; in by 11:30pm, etc.

So they're making a choice. And their choice imposes on everyone else.

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11 minutes ago, CenSin said:

If the trend of rising homeless population in the subways is anything to go by, I’d say that the railroad policy of erecting barriers to transportation is justifiable. No discrimination leads to a melting pot like the subway where folks have to ride with all sorts of garbage.

It isn't (anything to go by).... The increase in the amount of homeless in the subway system & suburbanites that try to/want to make public transportation into their personal little boys/girls club (so to speak) are two completely different issues....

I'm not exactly justifying it, but homeless people are festering the subways for refuge.... Suburbanites in general OTOH want the amenities that the city offers & gives them, on their terms (while talking cash shit about "the city" at the same time).... Too good to live in the city, but have zero qualms about the benefits they get from it..... The proverbial having their cake & eating it too....

While I don't disagree with the subway being a melting pot of sorts, I'd say the railroads are festered with a separate set of "garbage" - some of which are part of that same melting pot we can describe the subway as being.....

 

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27 minutes ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

The problem again is with de Blasio.  There are places to put homeless shelters without destroying neighborhoods in the process. Having transients in and out of neighborhoods near schools where children are is a big mistake.  If de Blasio wants to spread the wealth by having homeless shelters throughout the City, he'd put some in Park Slope, you know where he lives, but he won't do that. The hypocrisy of this administration isn't surprising.  He talks about the tale of two cities, yet he benefits from it. Look at how little he pays in property taxes.  I could show other examples, but I don't want so as not to stray from the topic, but you get my point.

I'm sorry, I don't follow. We shouldn't put shelters in neighborhoods near schools...but it's okay to put them in Park Slope? I smell "anywhere but my neighborhood"-ism here...

Look, I (sort of) get concerns about having homeless folks around. But you end up at an impasse. The only way to get rid of homeless people is to raise their standards of living, and the only way to do that is through shelters/housing/other social reintegration programs. So at some point, some neighborhood is going to have to take them in. 

And yes, the mayor sucks. 

12 minutes ago, BM5 via Woodhaven said:

Also, not every place needs to be developed. We don't want to see our neighborhood turn into the next Williamsburg. This mayor has been too busy with pleasing those luxury apartment owners. There's enough of them already, and many do not even look very full. That's the only development that is happening. There are no other development besides this, and in mass. This mayor does not care about poorer folks, like he claims to do. 

The reason that there are so many luxury apartments is precisely because development is so constricted. The few units that are built are arriving in such a hot/undersupplied market that they *can* be all condos for Wall St. bros. If the rate of construction was increased, developers wouldn't be able to cherry pick market segments so well, meaning you'd actually see expansive market-rate construction. 

I also think these arguments about neighborhood character are fundamentally flawed. Unless you're living in an area already populated by the rich, your community's survival is contingent on rich(er) people not wanting to live there -- ie there being enough housing to absorb demand elsewhere. The second they become interested, you're sunk -- unless you can increase the supply of housing in a given area enough to keep prices down. Simple supply/demand. 

6 minutes ago, Deucey said:

The problem is that you can make all the resources available, but you can't make people use them.

These homeless do know of the resources available, but they deliberately choose not to use them - because they'd have to obey house rules: shoes for blankets and pillows; in by 11:30pm, etc.

So they're making a choice. And their choice imposes on everyone else.

You speak for a very small minority of the homeless. Most avoid shelters because they're packed and poorly funded. Given the chance to, you know, have a house and a life, most will take it -- especially given that such an outsized percentage of kids in this city (1/10 of public school pop.) are homeless. 

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1 minute ago, RR503 said:

I'm sorry, I don't follow. We shouldn't put shelters in neighborhoods near schools...but it's okay to put them in Park Slope? I smell "anywhere but my neighborhood"-ism here...

Look, I (sort of) get concerns about having homeless folks around. But you end up at an impasse. The only way to get rid of homeless people is to raise their standards of living, and the only way to do that is through shelters/housing/other social reintegration programs. So at some point, some neighborhood is going to have to take them in. 

And yes, the mayor sucks. 

My point is that if he's truly all about spreading the homeless problem around "equally", we'd see a homeless shelter proposed for Park Slope.  It's only fair that he shares in some of the pain no?  Otherwise, he's just dumping the problem on neighborhoods in the outer boroughs, especially Queens, from Kew Gardens, to Long Island City and then some.

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Just now, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

My point is that if he's truly all about spreading the homeless problem around "equally", we'd see a homeless shelter proposed for Park Slope.  It's only fair that he shares in some of the pain no?  Otherwise, he's just dumping the problem on neighborhoods in the outer boroughs, especially Queens, from Kew Gardens, to Long Island City and then some.

Oh, totally. Every neighborhood should have a shelter. As B35 says, part of living in a city is being an active participant in solving said city's problems. 

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5 minutes ago, RR503 said:

Oh, totally. Every neighborhood should have a shelter. As B35 says, part of living in a city is being an active participant in solving said city's problems. 

Not necessarily. Some neighborhoods already have tons of similar things.  While my neighborhood doesn't have homeless shelters, we have TONS of elderly homes. There's about six of them within 10 - 15 minute walk from my apartment. lol

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Just now, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

Not necessarily. Some neighborhoods already have tons of similar things.  While my neighborhood doesn't have homeless shelters, we have TONS of elderly homes. There's about six of them within 10 - 15 minute walk from my apartment. lol

Lol elderly home =/= homeless shelter; one serves a disadvantaged, outcast population, while the other serves well, elderly people. Sorry, VG8. If you truly want to spread the burden, Riverdale will have to have one too. 

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