Getting back to the original reason I was checking the website for my Congressman, Gary Ackerman (D-Queens), I was looking for examples of pork barrel spending in my district that could be a target for the Instapundit/N/Z. Bear “Porkbusters” campaign to put pressure on Senators and Members of Congress to accept spending cuts on pork projects in their states and districts to help pay for the massive rebuilding efforts needed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (and, perhaps, Hurricane Rita as well).
Now, Ackerman’s not shy about bringing home the bacon. He prominently displays a link to this September 2002 press release:
U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens/L.I.) today announced that his fifth Congressional district is number one in New York State and 37th in the nation for receiving the most in federal dollars – $9.5 billion in 2001 – according to a study conducted by the Associated Press (AP).
The news wire service’s analysis compared total federal government spending among the nation’s 435 congressional districts. The totals include demographic-based funding such as Social Security and Medicare, direct spending on regional projects and government loans and insurance.
Ackerman noted the high ranking despite the fact that he’s a Democrat in a Republican controlled Congress. The Congressman’s district stretches throughout the north shore of Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties.
The only other New York district to make the top 130 on the AP list, was upstate Rep. Mike McNulty, a Democrat from Albany who placed second in the state and 45th in the nation with $8.8 billion.
Well, let’s take a look at where that money goes, from First up is a July 30, 2005 press release on Ackerman’s own websiteannouncing Ackerman’s cut of the transportation bill (more here, here and here). I’m posting this now, but I will try to follow up with Ackerman via email to get a response.
$2.240 million: Reconstruction and expansion of Little Bay parking lot at Fort Totten in Bayside. This project is designed to expand the parking capacity of the former army base which is now a new public park. The plan includes:
· More than doubling the number of spots from 136 to 285.
· Removing existing pavement and guide rails.
· Installing interceptor catch basins and drywells.
· Installing new waterfront sidewalks and entry plazas to the fishing jetty and greenway.
· Rerouting the greenway along the waterfront with new asphalt pavement and greenway markings.
· Creating an exit onto the Cross Island Parkway service road.
· Installing new parking lot lighting with planted islands and striped lanes.
· Providing a new city bus turn-around.
· Installing new site furnishings, new landscaped meadows and new tree plantings.
There’s more on the Fort Totten project here:
Fort Totten was a U.S. Army base built in 1857. Most of the facility was slated to be excessed by the federal government in 1995 as part of military base closings across the nation. The property, which is among the most prime pieces of waterfront real estate in New York, is in the process of being transferred from the federal government to the City for use as one of the region’s most creative and beautiful public parks, pursuant to the community’s wishes. Completion of the transfer is imminent.
Once Fort Totten becomes a park, the property will be managed by the New York City Parks Department which will also administer the parking renovation project. The Cross Island overpass/212th Street undertaking will be performed by the City Transportation Department.
A total of 49.5 acres of Fort Totten will be given to the city for parkland when the property is transferred. An additional 10 acres, which recently became available and includes the Fort Totten Coast Guard Station, will also be turned over to the City at a later date. Ackerman last year persuaded the federal government to award the Coast Guard property to the city for additional parkland rather than use it for homeless housing. In addition, a separate and smaller piece of the property will continue to be utilized as a New York City Fire Department training academy. The 77th U.S. Army Reserve will also keep their existing facility on the fort.
All of this sounds very nice . . . I’m certainly in favor, within reason, of spending some money on public parks in the City. But if the park will benefit only local residents – as it will – and the land is being turned over to the City, why should federal money be spent on this? Or, more properly, (1) why should my tax dollars have to go to Washington to come back to Queens to spend on a purely local project, and (2) why shouldn’t the decision about whether this project makes budgetary sense be a decision made locally by the City, to be balanced against other local spending priorities? Pork.
· $3.376 million: Redesign and Reconstruction of the Cross Island Parkway bridge overpass and 212th Street in Bayside (the only road providing access to Fort Totten). This undertaking is intended to reduce any potential traffic congestion. It entails:
· A full redesign and reconstruction of the parkway overpass including abutments, wingwalls and the parkway approach roadways.
· A redesigning and reconstructing of 212th Street from the Cross Island Parkway Service Road to Bell Boulevard.
· Pushing existing bridge abutments out at least 24 feet to create two additional lanes.
· Lining-up the two sides of 212th Street at the Bell Boulevard intersections which are presently not aligned.
· Improving the capacity and operation of 212th Street between Bell Boulevard and the Cross Island Parkway service road.
· Improving access to the Bayside Waterfront Bicycle Path.
This, again, is local spending on local roads; there’s nothing here to suggest that this is needed to, say, improve the flow of interstate trucking or some similar national purpose. If it’s worthwhile, let Bloomberg ask for the money. Pork.
· $880,000: Downtown Flushing Multi-Modal. Funds for this project are to be used for increasing connectivity for pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles between the Downtown Flushing retail core/transit hub and areas located to the west including College Point Boulevard., Shea Stadium, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and the Flushing World’s Fair Marina. The project is also designed to decrease traffic congestion. It is composed of 3 interconnected components:
1. Improvements to College Point Blvd. to help soften its industrial character and facilitate better access to sites located along the Flushing River. Included in this component would be recommending the most feasible means to connect bikeways located to the north and south of College Point Blvd.
2. Identifying and Implementing the most feasible and cost effective connection from Northern Blvd. to College Point Blvd. to relieve congestion in the central core and improve vehicle access from LaGuardia Airport.
3. Streetscape improvements to Roosevelt Ave. to facilitate easier pedestrian connection between College Point Blvd. and the inter-modal transit hub located at the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Blvd.
We’re getting down to penny-ante stuff here by federal budget standards, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Pork.
· $800,000: Downtown Flushing Traffic and Pedestrian Improvements. Funding for this undertaking has been earmarked for the studying, designing and construction of numerous bikeway enhancements, pedestrian improvements and traffic management measures. It is intended to build upon and complement ongoing initiatives being undertaken by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and NYC Department of City Planning. These efforts will help provide inter-modal transit support in the area, while improving pedestrian circulation, linking bike and pedestrian routes with public transit, reducing pedestrian/vehicular conflicts and accidents, proving traffic calming measure, thus improving vehicular congestion and air quality.
Local, local, local. Pork.
$384,000: Roosevelt Avenue Waterfront Access. This project is designed to improve this underutilized, city-owned waterfront site located under and adjacent to the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge to provide pedestrian and bicycle access to the Flushing River Waterfront. This revitalization is a mandated component pf the Downtown Flushing Waterfront Access Plan, adopted in 1998 by the New York City Council. The Plan requires that new commercial or mixed-use development on seven parcels along the Flushing River provide shore public walkways, upland connections to the shore public walkway and visual corridors in locations indicated by the Plan. Specifically, this project is for construction of a shore public walkway and sitting area on the only City-owned site located within the Downtown Flushing Waterfront Access Plan. It will improve the deteriorated sidewalk adjoining the Roosevelt Ave. Bridge and design and construct a 40 foot space along the river, as well as a bike rack, signage and improved lighting.
Sidewalks. Bike racks. We’ve come a long way from providing for the national defense, here. Pork.
$4.8 million: Parking and road improvements at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park. This project will enable the North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System to build a new parking facility and improve roadway access through its Long Island Jewish Medical Center campus in New Hyde Park. The project will provide 650 additional parking spots for patients, visitors and employees of the medical center, significantly reduce parking problems and traffic congestion within the neighborhoods surrounding the L.I.J. campus and greatly enhance emergency vehicle access to the L.I.J. Emergency Department by creating a dedicated entrance for ambulances.
The project is also expected to reduce congestion and improve traffic flows on Lakeville Road. In addition, the plan will provide a direct connection to Lakeville Road and create easy access from local highways directly to the parking structure. These improvements should also reduce traffic generated air pollution and improve air quality in the region.
A parking lot? And can’t LIJ – which is a fine hospital, by the way – pay for some of this stuff itself? Pork.
· $320,000: Traffic Calming and Safety Improvements for Great Neck Road in Great Neck. This project, which includes the stretch of Great Neck Road between Water Mill Lane and Clair Street, is designed to mitigate traffic and substantially improve pedestrian and motorist safety. The plan includes street parking improvements, travel lane upgrades, a mid-block speed table with a crosswalk, direction control and neckdowns (curb extensions at intersections that reduce roadway width for pedestrians).
Presently, the area suffers from critical safety hazards caused by congestion, u-turns, double and inadequate parking, difficult pedestrian crossings, poor site lines and poor road conditions among other items.
Great Neck Road is used as a primary arterial route from Northern Boulevard in Queens to the Great Neck Peninsula. It also carries a significant amount of traffic during the AM and PM weekday rush hours and is a highly visible and active business corridor. In addition to alleviating congestion and improving safety, the project will improve the strip’s economic activity and the overall quality of life in the area.
Traffic calming? OK, that’s just a bad description. Still, we’re talking about yet another local traffic project here. Pork.
A further amusing aside: you can tell from Ackerman’s website that trumpeting local spending is priority #1 for his use of the internet. While there are up-to-date press releases for the 2005 transportation bill, his site is otherwise woefully out of date: there’s still what looks like an anthrax-related disclaimer on the site:
Although mail delivery to United States Capitol offices has resumed, the delivery process is still very slow. Until the process is more timely, the best way to contact me is email. Please click on the link to the left labeled Contact Gary.
And the “WAYS TO SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!” link leads you to this announcement:
While the war in Iraq is over, American forces are still there and will be for quite some time. Please take a moment to send a message to the brave men and women serving our country overseas.
Even a die-hard optimist wouldn’t put it that way today.
UPDATE: Here is the email I submitted on a form on Congressman Ackerman’s website:
Dear Congressman Ackerman:
I write, as a constituent, to ask for you to join in the movement to return federal funds appropriated for local transportation projects so that they can be used to pay for the massive rebuilding efforts needed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I have noted, on my website, examples taken from your press releases of more than $12 million just in funds from the latest transportation bill that do not represent any urgent federal priority and could be more urgently needed to assist in the reconstruction of hurricane-affected areas without further expanding federal spending. I have more extensively discussed the matter here:
This is a nationwide movement. Thus far, two Members of Congress – including your party leader, Nancy Pelosi – have pledged to return transportation funds from their districts to help offset the hurricane-related costs. Details are here:
Please respond to let me know if you are willing to do the same.