4 The QUENS Courier • march 26, 2015 for breaking news visit www.queenscourier.com Photos courtesy of MTA Bridges and Tunnels/Mark Valentin The MTA is expected to award a four-year, $236. 5 million to rebuild the Queens Midtown Tunnel, which was submerged in 12 million gallons of salt water during Superstorm Sandy. MTA TO AWARD $236.5M CONTRACT TO REBUILD QUEENS MIDTOWN TUNNEL BY ANGY ALTAMIRANO email@example.com/@aaltamirano28 One of the city’s tunnel systems is expected to get a much-needed face-lift after being heavily damaged during Superstorm Sandy. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on March 23 that the MTA is expected to award a four-year, $236.5 million contract to rebuild the Queens Midtown Tunnel, which since the 2012 hurricane has been operating with temporary repairs. Around 40 percent of the length of tunnel was submerged in 12 million gallons of salt water during the storm. The contract, which will be completed with Judlau Contracting Inc., was approved by the MTA Bridges and Tunnels Committee on March 23 and as of press time was expected to be approved by the full MTA board. “Superstorm Sandy demonstrated the need for our infrastructure to be safer, stronger and more resilient to meet the challenge of extreme weather, and today, we’re taking another important step in that direction,” Cuomo said. “The Queens Midtown Tunnel is a vital part of the transportation network for the entire metropolitan area, and by undertaking this aggressive renovation we can rebuild from the damage caused by Sandy and ensure that it is protected from future storms.” Work on the tunnel is expected to begin in the summer and will likely result in nighttime and weekend tube and lane closures. A majority of the work is Sandyrelated and will also include several capital projects to try to organize the work and minimize the amount of closures impacting traffic. Some of the Sandy-related repair and restoration work includes replacing the electrical, lighting, communications, monitoring and control systems in the tunnel. Restoration and mitigation work will also be done at the tunnel’s mid-river pump room. “This investment in the Midtown Tunnel rehabilitation will restore the roadway to its pre-Sandy state while minimizing disruptions and delays and prioritizing the safety of commuters,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney said. Structural work at the tunnel includes the replacement of catwalks, duct banks, wall tiles, ceiling finishes, polymer panels, curbs and gutters. The tunnel is also expected to get new roadway LED lighting and clearly marked exit signs, lights and emergency phones. Capital projects include replacing the fire line system in both tubes, and a complete rehabilitation of the Manhattan Exit Plaza, including the 36th Street ramp where full and partial repairs will be done. “When Sandy flooded the Queens Midtown Tunnel with millions of gallons of water, our crews worked valiantly to make immediate repairs and get traffic moving again,” said James Ferrara, MTA Bridges and Tunnels president. “Now we need to fully repair the damage and fortify the tunnel to be more resilient for the future.” Artists gather at MoMA PS1 for Cultural Town Hall BY ANTHONY GIUDICE firstname.lastname@example.org @A_GiudiceReport Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer hosted a Cultural Town Hall meeting at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City on March 18, featuring Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) Tom Finkelpearl, regarding plans to increase the number of affordable housing for artists. Van Bramer and Finkelpearl also discussed recently proposed legislation to develop a cultural plan in New York City and enhancing the city’s Percent for Art program to grow community engagement. Being an artist and living in New York is no easy task. Many of the artists in attendance for the town hall meeting said they are finding it tougher and tougher to be able to afford the rising cost of rent. The fear is that this is leading to artists packing up and moving out of New York, and if the trend is not stopped, the city will be left without any artists. “This administration has recently unveiled an affordable housing plan that includes 1,500 units for artists, dedicated units for artists,” Van Bramer said. “We’re making sure that artists can continue to live and create and make some money here in New York City.” “The mayor announced that in 10 years we’re going to build 1,500 units…of affordable housing for artists, and 500 units of affordable studio spaces, which is also very important,” Finkelpearl said. An example of affordable housing for artists is P.S. 109 in East Harlem, which is an old school building that has been converted into 89 units of affordable live/work spaces for artists, Finkelpearl explained. “It’s the first, new, affordable workspace for artists in a generation in New York City,” he said. Van Bramer added that “we could be just a month or two away from passing the first ever comprehensive cultural plan in the city of New York.” The piece of legislation requires the city to look at their current cultural priorities, determine how communities are being served and how they propose to better those services. The plan will study the condition of artists and plan how to remain an artist-friendly city. The city will go to communities and find out what they want and need in a cultural plan and incorporate what they hear into the plan. “I think we’re really ready to embrace this,” said Finkelpearl, a former director of the Queens Museum of Art. Creating a public art plan for New York will bring more art to the communities, but the Percent for Art program will procure the funding for public art works. The Percent for Art program is a law that was established in 1982 and requires one percent of the budget for eligible city-funded construction projects be allocated to public artwork. Since its inception, the Percent for Art program, managed by the DCA, has commissioned hundreds of sitespecific projects throughout New York City. “I think the more public art that we have in the city of New York, the better,” Van Bramer said. One way to increase community involvement is to get them involved in the Percent for Art program process. “Do you see an opportunity for more community engagement?” Van Bramer asked Finkelpearl. “In general the procedures and regulations that the law has spawned, I think, are quite effective, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get better,” Finkelpearl responded. “I’m thrilled to have this conversation,” on pubic art and about its perception, Van Bramer said.
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