Letters to the Editor

| 24 Nov 2021 | 12:20

Bobby Ochs and Samantha’s

I’d like Bobby Ochs (“A Reformed Restaurateur Reviews Restaurant Reviewers,” Our Town Nov. 25 - 31) to know I was lucky enough to live up the block from Samantha’s back in the day and would totally agree with Thea Sands’ review! It was sorely missed when it closed.

Nancy A. Rutkowski

Upper East Side

Rules for Outdoor Dining Sheds

A comment on the Public Health article by Michael Oreskes in the Nov. 18-24 paper (“A New COVID Surge”): He mentions a restaurant structure that did not meet the city’s requirement that outdoor dining be open on three sides.

Here on the Upper East Side, just about every structure is closed on three sides. Can it be that for all this time all these structures are in violation and yet they are still here? I am not opposed to the structures, just confused by the writer’s comment.

Thank you for reading my comment.

Marge Giacalone

Upper East Side

Michael Oreskes replies: Thank you for sharing your observations about restaurant structures on the Upper East Side. Under the rules set by the City’s Department of Transportation, restaurants are allowed to build outside structures closed on three sides. However, says a city official, “If a structure is closed on three sides, it counts as indoor dining for regulatory purposes, including vaccine mandates.” In other words, both customers and staff must show proof of vaccination and there must be adequate distancing between tables. None of this was the case at the three-sided outdoor dining area on the mid-West Side in the story you refer to. So the restaurants that you have spotted with enclosed outdoor structures either have to enforce indoor dining mandates or open their structures more widely to the fresh air, under the regulations.

Questions About Second Avenue Subway Phase 2

Second Avenue Subway Phase 2 would open up service north from 96th Street to 125th Street. In 2020, under the MTA $51 billion Capital Plan, the overall cost went up close to $1 billion. This raised the price tag to $6.9 billion. The previous federal share of $2 billion or 33% is now assumed to be 50% or $3 billion plus. Who can guarantee (based upon future advancement of design and engineering, construction contractors responses to the procurement process for contract(s) award followed by change orders during construction due to unforeseen site conditions or changes in scope) that the final cost could end up several hundred million to a billion or two more. The MTA would be on the hook to pay for any additional costs. MTA had to pay for $5 billion more in costs for LIRR East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal.

A legal commitment from Washington for funding is still unknown. It could take one to two more years to resolve. The project still faces many hurdles.

Current status for funding sources necessary to support the MTA $51 billion 2020 - 2024 Five Year Capital Plan is fragile. It is dependent on raising $15 billion from congestion price tolls. Due to the economic recession as a result of COVID-19, billions anticipated from congestion pricing, real estate transfer, internet sales, along with other city and state taxes, may not appear.

Governor Cuomo and NYC Mayor de Blasio are each responsible for contributing $3.5 billion. Now it is up to Governor Hochul and Mayor- elect Adams. Both Albany and City Hall face budget shortfalls in the billions once federal CARE-COVID19 funds dry up. The same unforeseen financial problems may also impact their respective contributions.

The MTA had no legal commitment from the FTA to provide up to $3.5 billion in New Starts funding under a Full Funding Grant Agreement in 2020. The same is true in 2021 now two years in a row.

Has FTA committed to approve the FFGA in 2022?

It is anyone’s guest how many more decades will pass before you can ride the full length of Second Avenue subway from 125th Street to Hanover Square.

Larry Penner

Great Neck, NY