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Feedback 1/22/20: High-speed rail, climate change, 'Parcel 5 Park' 

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How we can pay for high-speed rail

With 2019 ending as the second hottest year on record, and with the past five years as the five warmest on record, the need to reduce carbon emissions sharply is distressingly clear. One way to do so is to substitute high-speed rail, with its low-carbon footprint, for automobile, truck and domestic air travel, with their high, climate-destroying carbon emissions. Toward this end, Governor Andrew Cuomo has supported creating high-speed rail in the state.

A recent CITY Editor’s Notebook questioned where the estimated $15 billion needed for the rail would come from (“New York’s high-speed rail fail,” Editor’s Notebook, January 8). Let me count some of the ways:

We could use just a small portion of an estimated $649 billion in subsidies given to coal, oil, and gas companies in the U.S. every year.

Reverse the Trump administration’s corporate tax cuts, which gave corporations $91 billion in tax breaks in 2018 and will give them $1.35 trillion over the next 10 years. Why continue these cuts when they were used not for the public good, but rather to enrich stockholders and corporate executives through such schemes as stock buybacks, which hit a record $800 billion last year?

Create new corporate tax laws that would prevent the nearly 100 corporations, including Amazon, Chevron, and E.G. Lilly from paying zero or even less than zero taxes, which the non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found occurred in 2018.

Use some of the $81 billion a year that the policy institute Securing America’s Future Energy calculates is spent on protecting oil companies around the world.

The Editor’s Notebook further points out that a 2009 high-speed rail evaluation of the 50 best city-to-city connections for the service ranked a connection between Rochester and New York City as 50th on its list. But remember, the list is of the best city pairs for high-speed rail, not all city pairs across the nation. Therefore, while the ROC-NYC connection received a score of 85.11 on this list of top contenders, it was separated by a mere four points from 11th-place Chicago-Columbus connection, which scored 89.42. In other words, 40 of top 50 city connections rated for high-speed rail were separated by a mere four or fewer rating points.

High-speed rail is not a transportation option; it’s a necessity in the struggle to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the disastrous consequences of global warming. That’s why it is also an essential part of the Green New Deal plan to combat global warming and prevent a horrendous future for our children and grandchildren. To determine the necessity and affordability of high-speed rail, we must think beyond the mental barriers created by a corporate-dominated economy and a corporate-constructed public budget.


Climate change needs constant media focus

There is insufficient reference to climate change in newspapers (not just CITY) and other news sources, despite the dire climate crisis we now confront. I know CITY (and WXXI) have had specific locally-relevant articles, but it’s time that climate change is given constant prominence in all news coverage. It needs to be recognized as the top priority issue, which does or will impact essentially all other issues that claim more attention.

The majority of thinking people do recognize that climate change is real, although most of us are preoccupied with making ends meet, keeping our children healthy and happy, doing well in our profession, etc., and just hope for effective government action. But our future will indeed be bleak if we go about our daily lives without changing our own modus operandi. I think that the media could contribute to the needed transformation by reporting and discussing more of the news in the context of climate change. Improved public recognition and understanding of the causes, problems, interactions, and possible solutions will promote needed pressure on governments and businesses.

It seems depressingly unlikely that any positive policy action will be take nationally by the current administration or Congress. Thankfully, some states, counties, cities, and towns are forging ahead in various ways. Nonetheless, I believe that essentially all human activities must be rapidly and substantially modified so as to minimize or eliminate their carbon footprint and to repair damaged ecosystems. As a simple example, all new building construction and major renovations should be required to at least meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, incorporate a maximum possible capacity of renewable energy generation, and eliminate natural gas service. It seems unconscionable that such basic steps have not already become universal.

The argument that these modifications “cost too much” is no longer a valid excuse, nor in many cases even true. Clearly this is one of innumerable targets ripe for investigative journalism and that could make a major contribution to developing our community’s sustainable future.
I hope that all news media will embrace their critical role in the necessary transition of our world view.


Parcel 5 could be the “backbone” of city parks

I agree that Midtown Parcel 5 should become a permanent city park (“Why not a park at Parcel 5?” Feedback, January 15). It should become part of the adjoining Midtown Commons at the south end, and together be designated a permanent city park. This should become a “spine” of the Center City parks of Martin Luther King Jr. Park at Manhattan Square, Washington Square Park, Cornerstone Park, Liberty Pole Green, St. Joseph’s Park, and Schiller Park.

Also, there should be another “spine” of riverfront parks consisting of the new Riverfront Walkway, the park along the Blue Cross Arena, Major Charles Carroll Plaza, and High Falls Terrace Park. The city should also acquire the privately-owned Aqueduct Park and incorporate.

The park between the river and the arena should also benefit from renovations to the arena. A nice touch would be to paint its concrete pavers to honor U.S. military history and have a replica of one of the Art Deco eagles that was on Buffalo’s former Memorial Auditorium to complement the existing copper eagle with a broken chain in its beak in a planter there.


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In the Salon with filmmaker Jodie Mack @ Visual Studies Workshop

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