Legislative Update

Volume CIII, No. 12December, 2003

Heather Beaudoin



Rep. Anthony Weiner will be seeking federal transportation dollars to help alleviate long commute times for New Yorkers. Although much of New York’s problem with commute times stem from a high volume of commuters, new capital projects such as ferry service from Southern Queens and the Rockaways, a Second Avenue subway line, and a new rail tunnel under the East River are solutions proposed that would drastically reduce commute times.

“Getting to work in New York City can be almost as much work as work itself,” said Rep. Weiner. “Crowded roads, subways and buses make for high stress travel, both for people and for infrastructure. We need to lock in substantial federal transportation dollars now, so that we’re not brought to a standstill down the road.”

Some of the highlights of Rep. Weiner’s study are:

  • The four longest commutes to work in the country, on average, are in New York City. Richmond County residents have the longest, averaging 43.9 minutes to work, followed by Kings County, Bronx County, and Queens County.
  • Over the past ten years, travel times have increased by four minutes in each county.
  • No other county in the country exceeds an average travel time to work of 40 minutes.
  • As you get further away from Manhattan, commutes tend to get shorter. Average commute times from Suffolk (31.8 minutes) and Nassau (34.3 minutes) are markedly shorter than Richmond, Kings, Bronx, and Queens, as are commutes in such New Jersey counties as Sussex (38.3 minutes) and Monmouth (34.8 minutes).
  • On average, those commuting by public transportation spend 18 more minutes commuting, each way, than those traveling by car. The mean travel time by public transportation is 48 minutes to work, but only 30 minutes by car.
  • The longest average commute to work via car in New York City is traveled by residents of St. Albans, Queens (40.3 minutes). However, in 140 neighborhoods, residents spend more time commuting via mass transit than the very longest car commute, including residents of Tottenville, Staten Island (81.9 minutes) who spend twice as much time on the train or bus as St. Albans residents spend by car.

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Since the 1960’s, New York City has sponsored the creation of 139 low and moderate-income rental and limited-equity cooperative developments in the city, which were developed under the Mitchell-Lama program. All Mitchell-Lama developments have been built with substantial city assistance, including the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in land, forsaken tax revenues and loans at below-market interest rates. The City Council has found that these developments have greatly contributed to the revitalization and economic vitality of the city by enabling hundreds of thousands of city residents to remain in decent housing.

All of the city’s Mitchell-Lama developments have reached, or will soon reach, the point at which they can undergo the conversion process and be removed from the Mitchell-Lama Program. The conversion process will allow these developments to charge market rates for many of the housing units unrestricted from any rent regulations. The conversion process would likely exacerbate the already drastic shortage of affordable housing in New York City.

City Council recently introduced legislation (Intro. 523) that would make it harder for city-supervised Mitchell-Lama developments to withdraw from the Mitchell-Lama program. The legislation creates a number of hurdles that the development must pass before it could withdraw. For instance, before withdrawing from the program, a Mitchell-Lama development would have to publish a study of the in-depth effects and impacts of each conversion process on the residents. And third party purchasers would need to demonstrate that the Mitchell-Lama development has been in substantial compliance with essential city regulations.

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