Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A top New York editor loses his way in the suburbs

NJ Transit has been slammed by the media, but the agency may not be to blame for vastly underestimating the number of Super Bowl fans who took the train to and from the game in East Rutherford (33,000), resulting in hours-long waits for some of them, The Record reports today. About 2,000 parking passes and 300 charter bus permits, which could have accommodated 15,000 fans, were never used, the newspaper says.


A little over 2 years ago, Marty Gottlieb ended a stellar career at The New York Times and took over The Record's cramped Woodland Park newsroom.

But it soon became evident the Borg publishing family didn't give the new editor the go-ahead to clean house after a disastrous tenure by Francis "Frank" Scandale, his predecessor, who was fired.

The same lazy, incompetent local-news editor kept their jobs, the same burnt-out columnists wrote endlessly and often inaccurately about all manner of nonsense, and -- in the absence of any meaningful editing or fact-checking -- the quality of the paper declined dramatically.

Today, it's clear that Gottlieb, who traded Paris for Paramus and Paterson, has lost his way in the suburbs.

On top of news?

The New York City media are obsessed with snow removal and the quality of mass transit -- two big North Jersey issues Gottlieb hasn't touched.

The paper's chief transportation reporter, Road Warrior John Cichowski, suffers from early Alzheimer's or dementia, and writes almost exclusively about driving.

Karen Rouse, the reporter who covers NJ Transit, has spent most of her time trying to find out who was responsible for putting hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment in harm's way during Superstorm Sandy.

TV's local scoop

On Monday night, CBS 2 News crowed about an exclusive -- the belated bulldozer clearing of bus stops on Route 4 in Hackensack and Route 3 in Clifton that had been marooned by high snowbanks.

Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse braved the sub-freezing weather to tell the TV reporter he acted when he saw the CBS 2 video of the dangerous conditions a few days earlier. 

Filler, not news

Today, the Local section doesn't carry any photos of dangerous bus stops. 

Instead, there are photos of uncollected Christmas trees in Ridgewood (L-3), and pothole repairs on Route 46 west in Little Falls (L-6), where the local editors had to fill a big hole with a long obituary for actor Clint Eastwood's agent, a man no one has ever heard of. 

Missed story

On Sunday, a letter to the editor complained of long lines and missing NJ Transit rush-hour buses leaving the midtown Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan.

Richard G. Simon of New Milford said that for the past three weeks, the waiting time for the No. 167 and No. 177 buses averaged about 45 minutes.

Last Thursday, he wrote, there was a line of several hundred people that snaked down the escalator to the floor below the platform, but only two of the scheduled buses arrived between 4:50 p.m. and 5:40 p.m.

You've never seen transportation reporters Rouse or Cichowski reporting on the continuing problems in the crowded bus terminal or the lack of rush-hour seats on NJ Transit trains. 

NFL screw-ups

Today's front-page NJ Transit story is about the disappointing Super Bowl, suggesting the media was too hasty in piling on the agency for keeping thousands of fans waiting to board trains to and from the game (A-1 and A-6).

Apparently, the National Football League screwed up by vastly overstating how many fans would drive or take buses to the East Rutherford stadium.

Another front-page story breathlessly reports on "new or amended subpoenas" in the Bridgegate scandal (A-1), even as pedestrians have to walk in the street because of uncleared sidewalks.

More errors

Readers are familiar with cost overruns on public projects, but with Cichowski, they've seen numerous factual overruns, as in his L-1 Sunday column on removal of the Little Ferry Circle and safety improvements on the Route 46 bridge over the Hackensack River.

The addled Road Warrior reported the project will cost $39 million, but The Record's earlier story and the state Department of Transportation Web site list the cost as $30 million.

Cichowski said a man's sister was killed "near the proposed work site," but later noted she was killed by a car while walking across the bridge, which is a major part of the proposed work.

Irrelevant detail

And the befuddled reporter wrote that "despite the construction of two interstates ... in the 1960s (Routes 80 and 95), Route 46 has remained a popular route to Teterboro Airport."

That's likely because neither interstate goes to Teterboro.  

See a full blow-by-blow exposing Cichowski's errors and hilarious exaggerations on the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers:

Readers are ready to pull out their hair

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