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Written by Megan Finnegan Bungeroth on . Posted in Notes from the Neighborhood, Our Town.


East Siders Applaud MTA Repair Plan
Upper East Side City Council Member Jessica Lappin released the results of a transit survey this week that finds that an overwhelming majority of constituents are happy with the MTA’s new Fastrack subway maintenance system.

The Fastrack program replaced the old system of closing down subway stations for several weekends at a time in order to make repairs. Now the MTA will partially close a line during four consecutive weeknights from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., keeping it fully operational during the day and over the weekend. The change is partly in response to a 5.3 percent boost in weekend ridership since 2007, according to MTA figures.

The survey, conducted between mid-June and July of this year and answered by 990 people, also found that locals are clamoring for Upper East Side ferry service. Seventy-one percent of respondents said they’d use the East River Ferry if it stopped nearby. Seventy-two percent said they support a new City Council proposal to give letter grades, much like the Department of Health currently gives to restaurants, to each subway station.

Columbia Jumps Into Tech Ed
Earlier this week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Columbia University President Lee Bollinger announced that the city will be partnering with the school to create a new institute for data sciences and engineering as part of the city’s Applied Sciences NYC initiative.

The city will give $15 million in funding and financial assistance to Columbia to create the new school, a figure that includes discounted energy transmission costs and partial debt forgiveness. The school will create 44,000 square feet of space on the campus by 2016 and hire 75 new faculty members over the next 15 years as the applied science and engineering programs grow. The program will be located at Columbia’s Morningside Heights and Washington Heights campuses and will fall under the umbrella of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“We are proud of Columbia Engineering’s ascent among its peers over the past decade and the impact of its constant stream of innovations on our economy,” said Bollinger in a statement. “We know from experience that the creativity and dynamism of this new Data Sciences Institute will be ignited by collaborations that are possible because they are part of the wide diversity of intellectual excellence that defines not just a great urban research university like Columbia, but the genius of New York City itself.”

The mayor and other politicians praised the deal for its potential to create jobs and boost the local economy. According to a study conducted by the city’s Economic Development Corporation, the project is expected to generate $3.9 billion in overall economic activity over the next 30 years, including 4,223 permanent jobs and 285 construction jobs, as well as the creation of 170 spin-off companies in the city.

Columbia’s proposal was also hailed for its focus on data science in ways that will impact the city in the near future. The new institute will have five specific departments: new media, smart cities, health analytics, cybersecurity and financial analytics.

“New York City is quickly becoming a national epicenter for tech innovation,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in a statement. “The new Center…is an exciting new initiative that will support advances in the promising technologies of tomorrow and will continue to attract the best and the brightest to the city. The city’s investment in the project is a forward-thinking use of capital resources to promote continued growth in these fields.”

Columbia had previously put in a bid to receive a hefty chunk of city funding and access to city-owned land to develop a new applied sciences campus; that $100 million deal was awarded to a partnership between Cornell University and Israel’s Technion Institute to build a 2 million-square-foot tech campus on Roosevelt Island. Bloomberg has consistently said that the city would be open to awarding funding and making deals with more than one of the 17 schools that initially applied. In April of this year, the city reached an agreement with an NYU-led consortium to create an urban science and progress center in downtown Brooklyn as part of the Applied Science program.

East Side Access Tunnel Finished
The giant underground construction project that will eventually connect the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal hit a major milestone this week, though it still has a long way to go before it’s operational. Construction crews for the East Side Access project finished boring the tunnel that will make the rail connections possible. The MTA’s 200-ton boring machine, nicknamed “Molina” after a group of sixth graders chose the moniker, finished its journey on Monday and will now be scrapped as the next phase of the project gets underway.
“We’re literally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel on completing East Side Access, the largest mass transit project under construction anywhere in the country. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s worth taking a moment to celebrate this important milestone. I congratulate all the sandhogs, MTA employees—and Molina!—for completing this difficult and grueling task,” said East Side Rep. Carolyn Maloney.
The project is located almost entirely in Maloney’s district, and she has pushed for federal funding to keep it going.

Night Out Against Crime
The Upper East Side’s 19th Precinct will participate in the National Night Out Against Crime this Tuesday, Aug. 7, from 5–8 p.m. Police officers will be on hand to talk to community members about crime prevention and the issues that are of concern to the neighborhood. There will be activities for kids and adults, including live music from the French Cookin’ Blues Band and refreshments from Manny’s on 2nd, Butterfield Market, Pintaile’s on York, Maz Mescal, Le Pain Quotidien and Shake Shack. The event will be at Carl Schurz Park at East 86th Street and East End Avenue, weather permitting. For more information, contact the 19th Precinct’s Community Affairs liaison at 212-452-0613 or lynch19ca@aol.com.

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