Thursday, July 31, 2014

I take an NJ Transit bus from hell into Manhattan gridlock

An hour and 15 minutes after I boarded NJ Transit's 165 local in Hackensack on Wednesday afternoon, the driver was jockeying for position at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. In a few minutes, a Port Authority police officer ordered the driver -- who was trying to get into the left lane of the tube -- to use the right lane, denying us direct access to ramps of the midtown-Manhattan bus terminal and consigning us to gridlock hell on city streets.

My bus was immobilized on West 35th Street at 10th Avenue, where the traffic light turned red, green, red and green, but the driver couldn't turn the corner because of other buses blocking the way. I got off here and walked the seven blocks to the terminal, where I had to catch a subway uptown. Many other passengers asked to get off even before we reached this intersection.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I've taken NJ Transit buses into Manhattan for many years to enjoy restaurants, Broadway shows and jazz concerts, but my trip on Wednesday afternoon took me directly into gridlock hell.

After more than 90 minutes, my 3:02 p.m. local from Main Street and Euclid Avenue in Hackensack was stopped dead on West 35th Street at 10th Avenue.

And we couldn't turn the corner, because we were blocked by other buses that were frozen in lines heading to the ramps of the Port Authority's midtown Manhattan terminal.

Many of the buses had no passengers and were returning to the terminal from New Jersey to pick up weary commuters heading home to the suburbs.

Drivers' newspaper

Empty buses frozen in traffic have been cited as the chief reason for weekday afternoon delays at the antiquated terminal -- a story The Record ignored until late last year, when the paper published angry letters from commuters.

That led to a state legislative hearing, and a decision by the Port Authority board to approve $90 million in emergency terminal repairs, but the problem of empty buses caught in gridlock is expected to remain.

Beneath contempt

The Record's lazy local editors, including Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza, have treated North Jerseyans who use mass transit as lower forms of life not worthy of the editorial coverage given drivers in the lame Road Warrior column, which once appeared at least three times a week.

No transportation reporter in memory has ever ridden a rush-hour bus or train to or from the city and reported on the quality of service, and the paper refuses to call for expansion of PATH, light rail and bus operations -- despite mounting traffic congestion.

Reverse lane needed

One change that could speed the empty buses into the city during the weekday afternoon rush hour is a reverse lane into the Lincoln Tunnel like the one that usually accommodates hundreds of commuter buses heading to Manhattan during the morning rush.

But an afternoon reverse lane wouldn't have helped me on Wednesday afternoon, because my bus approached the tunnel from Boulevard East, not the Route 495 helix.

The trip through the tunnel was smooth, but even buses that use the helix can get caught in Manhattan gridlock, if PA police deny them access to terminal ramps.

Bus trip from hell

Despite the nightmarish trip, I enjoyed a wonderful seafood dinner at Fulton Restaurant on East 75th Street, then walked uptown to the 92nd Street Y to hear Cecile McLorin Salvant perform the songs of Newark-born Sara Vaughan, backed by a quartet. 

The young singer was just divine.

But next time, if I want to go into the city at mid-afternoon, I'll drive, despite the traffic and extra cost.

The MCI Cruiser buses I rode to and from the city on Wednesday have seen much better days. 

They are noisy, with screeching rear brakes; the ride is rough and interior panels rattle. It took several tries to find a seat back that wasn't broken. 

And when drivers speed around curves on Boulevard East, there is nothing to hold onto. 

Today's paper

On the conflict in Gaza, The Record continues to run sensational body count stories from The Associated Press, denying readers the kind of insight provided by WNYC-FM and other media outlets (A-1).

This morning, National Public Radio reported Hamas was able to acquire sophisticated arms, including rockets, that crossed the border from Egypt during the year-long reign of another militant group, the Muslim Brotherhood.

As for the cement and other material that went into building the tunnels Hamas uses to send terrorists into Israel, they were brought in when Israel eased the blockade of Gaza.

Sanitizing the news

Another front-page story -- on the resignation of the state's chief economist after optimistic tax-revenue predictions -- doesn't mention that Governor Christie vetoed a surcharge on millionaires at least three time, shooting the state Treasury in the foot (A-1).

The densely written, complicated story, from Trenton reporter John Reitmeyer, seems aimed more at accountants and actuaries than long-suffering property tax payers.

Doughnut delivery

What can you say about the Bergen County sheriff's plan to acquire two armored vehicles, weighing nearly 15 tons each, except that they can carry a lot of doughnuts and boxes of Joe (A-1)?

All the armored vehicles and SWAT teams in the world couldn't have prevented a gunman from invading Westfield Garden State Plaza last Nov. 4, and firing random shots that panicked shoppers and employees before he committed suicide.

For that, you need good security at the mall, not military surplus.

Law & Order section

I suppose Editor Marty Gottlieb intended the Page 1 armored-vehicle story as an appetizer for today's Local Section, which is filled with Law & Order news.

The most sensational crime is the theft of "nine luxury cars" in Paramus since January, with drivers inviting the disappearances by leaving their keys in the unlocked vehicles or the engines running (L-1).

That is just one of more than a dozen police stories in the thin section, which is devoid of Hackensack municipal news for yet another day.

There is even a photo of three officers being promoted to sergeant in the city of Passaic just to show the editors don't ignore the impoverished city (L-2). 



On Wednesday afternoon, this line of buses on 10th Avenue and West 38th Street stretched back to West 35th Street -- where my bus was frozen at the light -- and beyond.

Bus drivers say you can't get to the terminal from here.

Empty buses on the way to the terminal were immobilized on a side street.

Another empty bus.

Buses stretch as far as the eye can see, above and below.


As I walked to the terminal, I passed buses that had finally reached access ramps, above and below. A pigeon scored a direct hit on the top of my baseball cap, adding insult to injury. But I was able to clean my cap in a terminal restroom before getting on the subway.


One small improvement inside the bus terminal are touch screens listing departure times and gates, but that doesn't guarantee your bus home will leave on time. 

After 10 p.m., North Jersey residents have to catch NJ Transit buses home at one of the 300 gates, above. My 165 local was scheduled to leave Gate 325 at 11:35 p.m. on Wednesday, but was about 15 minutes late. A young woman says the 165 is "always late." On board were 56 people, including standees, and even though the driver was speeding most of the time, the trip back to Hackensack, with frequent stops, took more than an hour.

Seen from the bus: On the way to the city on Wednesday, I saw that the Little Ferry Circle is history, though construction continues.

Late Tuesday morning, I rode a packed 7 train from Queens to Manhattan. Another passenger said it is even worse during the rush hour.

A homeless man taking a nap on Tuesday, oblivious to his surroundings on the subway platform at 42nd Street.

At Penn Station in Manhattan, noisy fans are needed to help cool the hall used by NJ Transit train riders.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Editors turn every Christie move into a political stunt

Leonia is one of those Bergen County towns that doesn't get much coverage in The Record of Woodland Park. Dressing up the small business district along Broad Avenue is a sculpture garden, above and below.

Most of the businesses along Broad Avenue are owned and operated by Korean-Americans. Leonia borders Palisades Park and Fort Lee, both of which have even stronger Korean presences.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I've learned to ignore the lame political column Charles Stile has been writing since Governor Christie took office way back in January 2010.

But his Page 1 column in The Record today is hard to miss, especially because Editor Marty Gottlieb is using it in place of a news story on the special session of the state Legislature the governor called to fix the bail system (A-1).

This boring Stile column reads like all the rest:

The special session, Stile claims, could "polish up his resume for a likely run for president in 2016" (A-1).

"Some say the timing is good for Christie, who is trying to rebuild his image in the wake of the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal" (A-7).

Voter apathy

But on A-7, readers also find a news story on the special session that repeats much of Stile's column -- a real waste of space.

Stile and The Record avoid discussing how politics divide the nation and New Jersey, and how reporting like this simply turns off voters.

Christie was reelected last November in the lowest turnout of any previous gubernatorial election, but The Record always refers to it as a "landslide" and doesn't even mention the legions of disaffected voters.

Worst governor ever

Below the fold today, Staff Writer Scott Fallon reports that funding of open-space preservation is endangered by the poor state economy under the GOP bully.

But you have to read the entire story to get that message.

Today's editorial on anti-violence efforts by three North Jersey cities also is edited in a way to avoid placing blame on Christie for cutting state aid to poor cities like Paterson, resulting in the layoff of 125 police officers in 2011.

"Indeed," the editorial writer declares, "during the recent tenure of Mayor Jeffrey Jones in Paterson there was the feeling that, for whatever reason, the city's needs were not being heard by the powers that be in Trenton."

"For whatever reason"? What crap.



The quaint Borough Hall in Leonia.


New suicides? 

Another Page 1 story may cause more suicides on the George Washington Bridge among readers who learn a plan to build a 9-foot fence might take eight years -- twice as long as did construction of the span (A-1).

Imagine how many lives could have been saved if this fence was built during the years the Port Authority was diverting toll money to construction of One World Trade Center, with all of its delays and cost overruns.

It's hard to believe the fence won't be finished until 2022.

The story is by Staff Writer Christopher Maag, who has been neglecting his Hackensack beat.

Maag is thorough, but the story goes on and on like something you'd see in The New York Times, Gottlieb's old paper.

Hackensack news

With Maag writing about bridge suicides, the only Hackensack news today is another reporter's story on a lawsuit filed against the city by Patrolman Moise Flanagan (L-1).

Hackensack Scoop, a local blog, reported the lawsuit five days ago.

Lying to readers

If a recipe isn't healthy, The Record's editors don't see anything wrong with lying to their readers.

Clueless freelancer Kate Morgan Jackson's recipe for Chilled Fennel Soup calls for 4 tablespoons of butter filled with artery clogging saturated fat (BL-2).

Yet, Jackson writes of the soup, "with no cream whatsoever, it's as healthy as healthy can be."

OK. With no brains whatsoever, Jackson is as stupid as stupid can be.



On Broad Avenue in Leonia, retail space is being renovated behind a colorful barrier, above and below.




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Editors are scraping bottom of the barrel for local news

Old and new architecture in lower Manhattan: The Municipal and Woolworth buildings, center left, and One World Trade Center.

Editor's note: Today's post has been updated and expanded.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

If The Record ran a story and photos every time officers were promoted by one of the 86 police departments in Bergen and Passaic counties, there would be no room for other local news.

So, readers can only conclude the Fort Lee promotions and hirings reported on L-2 today are a desperate attempt to plug a hole in the sleepy summer local report.

This is the kind of news that belongs in a weekly newspaper, of which North Jersey Media Group has many, not in the publishing company's flagship.

Even the 10 thumbnail photos of the promoted officers and new hires are out of focus, something you'd see in a weekly.

Production Editor Liz Houlton must be on vacation, though she doesn't do much better when she is there, asleep at her computer.

Feel-good police news

You get the feeling local-news Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza run these police promotion and hiring stories as a way of making nice with the departments.

Many law-enforcement agencies refuse to release routine accident and crime news to the paper, judging from how often those reports have holes big enough to drive a tractor-trailer through.

This may be Sykes' and Sforza's way of getting the departments to be more forthcoming.

Below the Fort Lee story is the stupid DEAN'S LIST, a fixture on L-2 that for years has filled a hole in the thin local-news report. 

Botched project

On the opposite page in Local today is a long, tortured story about a street in Ramsey that has been closed since last Nov. 4, forcing 10 businesses to relocate or close, according to the Chamber of Commerce (L-3).

Did I miss the interviews with business owners, denouncing the incompetence of county officials and the contractor for wanting to keep the street closed to two-way traffic for an entire year to replace a "culvert"?

Now, Lake Street is scheduled to open on Aug. 14, as we learn in great detail today from Staff Writer Allison Pries. 

For other momentous local news, see "Emerson field is ready for its artificial turf" (L-3), which undoubtedly will be followed by "Emerson field face-lift is complete."

Poor play

The L-1 story on Paterson, Newark and Jersey City joining to combat violent crime should have gotten far better play on Page 1.

Conspicuously absent is any mention of assistance from Governor Christie, who allegedly has retaliated against Democratic mayors who won't endorse his mean-spirited politics.

When Christie visited Paterson to swear-in Democratic Mayor Joey Torres on July 1, he was greeted by loud boos from protesters, according to the web site of PolitickerNJ.

There is apparently no truth to rumors the GOP bully threatened to dam the Passaic River and dry up the Great Falls, if Torres ever mentioned how the city had to lay off 125 police officers after Christie cut aid to the poor city.

The Record has been doing many strong follow-ups to the July 5 shooting of Genesis Rincon, a 12-year-old Paterson girl killed by a random gunshot as she was riding her scooter.

But the editors are not touching one touchy subject: The inability of Paterson police to protect citizens from drive-by shooting and other gun violence.

More casino news

The major Page 1 story today -- on a $1.5 billion hotel and casino proposed for Sterling Forest, north of the New Jersey border -- makes one reference to "a Malaysia-based hospitality company."

Can you trust a resort developer from a country whose civil aviation authority is in shambles?

This is the second speculative story on a casino in as many days, but how real is the threat to New Jersey's water supply?

On the continuation page, the story notes "the resort is one of 17 contenders for four casino licenses" (A-6). 

But there are no interviews with town officials and residents who would live near the behemoth and have to contend with traffic, noise and drunk gambling addicts.

Good soju news

Another touchy subject The Record's editors won't touch is how restaurants dramatically mark up beer, wine and liquor to boost their profits, even as they pay slave wages to servers and other staff.

Today, another front page story reports the "illegal serving of soju at BYOBs" in Palisades Park and other towns "has led to a 30 [percent] to 40 percent decline in sales at county restaurants that sell liquor," according to the Bergen County Korean Restaurant Association (A-4).

And in good news for restaurant goers, many restaurants with liquor licenses have slashed their price for a 375-milliliter bottle of the traditional alcoholic drink to $6.99 and $5.99 from $12.99.

Liquor stores sell the same bottle for $3.99.

An appreciation of soju by Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung fails to mention that some popular brands contain high fructose corn syrup, which is linked to the obesity epidemic (A-4).

Monday, July 28, 2014

More speculative news for gamblers lands on Page 1

Fort Lee police closed the Route 4 approach to the George Washington Bridge without warning on Sunday morning, then after a delay of about 5 minutes, opened one lane. Serious accident? Carjacking? As I drove by, two police officers were standing outside of their cruisers, looking down at a large pothole.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

What hold does Staff Writer John Brennan have on the clueless editors?

How did the former sports reporter get another speculative story on whether North Jersey will get a casino in a couple of years on Page 1 of The Record today?

Brennan -- honorary chairman of the Garden State chapter of Gamblers Anonymous -- has loudly talked up his Meadowlands stories for many years, wearing down local-news Editors Tim Nostrand, Deirdre Sykes and others.

His ridiculous stories on the racetrack and the possibility of casinos appear on the Local front and front page, aimed directly at gambling addicts.

Now, he's got Editor Marty Gottlieb in his grip, but that means the vast majority of readers have to turn the pages of the Woodland Park daily, looking for something relevant to their lives.

Local news

On the Local front today, a story on a Colombian festival moving from Hackensack to a larger Leonia site doesn't mention Englewood's annual Colombian celebration (L-1).

Two other stories report on express bus service to link Englewood with the Secaucus Junction rail hub (L-1), and the replacement of the shuttered Lincoln School and a firehouse with a $60 million residential/retail project (L-3).

'Children not at play'

But the small city already has built hundreds of apartments downtown and on both sides of Route 4, with no discernible positive impact on Palisade Avenue merchants.

The segregated Lincoln School was more than 100 years old when it was closed in 2008, and a plan to convert it into a recreation center was rejected by city officials, who cited the high cost.

More mass transit

Englewood continues to develop its mass transit, with the plan for the awkwardly named Bus Rapid Transit and making Englewood Hospital & Medical Center the terminus for NJ Transit's Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system.

Meanwhile, Tenafly has rejected light-rail service, and officials have cited residents' constitutional right to drive enormous SUVs into the city, pollute the air and waste fossil fuel.

Tenafly counts Publisher Stephen A. Borg among its wealthiest residents.




NJ Transit's electrified Hudson-Bergen Light Rail in Jersey City. Englewood hopes agency officials will extend the system to the hospital and medical center north of downtown.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Inside the world of The Record's DEADBEAT EDITORS

On a typical weekday morning, traffic on Route 3 east toward the Lincoln Tunnel grinds to a halt more than 2 miles from the tollbooths and then proceeds bumper to bumper, a delay of about 45 minutes.
In the afternoon, New Jersey drivers join the long lines of cars on Canal Street in Manhattan to enter the Holland Tunnel, a quarter of a mile away. The lack of mass-transit alternatives to and from New Jersey is especially dramatic during the rush hour.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Except for Page 1 teases, readers of The Record today get only three elements, Gaza, sports and a takeout on "deadbeat dads" -- a less-than-compelling issue in dysfunctional New Jersey.

Staff Writer Colleen Diskin apparently worked on the child-support story for a long time, judging by how few bylines she has had recently, but is that any reason to put the story on the front page?

And what is the point, that taxpayers pay more to jail the "deadbeat" men and women than the child support they finally cough up?

Editor Marty Gottlieb could run a Page 1 takeout every day on the property taxes wasted on services duplicated in every one of Bergen County's 70 towns.

He could run a front-page takeout every day on the broken mass-transit system, increasing traffic congestion and declining enforcement of speeding and aggressive driving.

Gottlieb could, in fact, assign reporters to issues of far greater general interest than "deadbeat dads," if he hadn't, in fact, become one of The Record's "deadbeat editors."

The list is long: Deirdre Sykes, Dan Sforza, Tim Nostrand, etc., etc.

More screw-ups

In big, black type, a headline on Saturday's Local front "gave the wrong location for a fatal car accident that happened Thursday," according to a correction on A-2 today.

A copy editor wrote "Fort Lee" instead of "Ridgefield," which is slightly longer and probably didn't fit in the headline. 

Anyone who has driven on the West Side Highway in Manhattan -- where many drivers exceed the speed limit by 10 mph, 20 mph and more -- knows a Bergen County police officer quoted in Road Warrior John Cichowski's July 18 column is wrong.

In New York City, speeding cameras are used only on local streets in school zones, as Cichowski reported in the same column.

See the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers:

Road Warrior errors are captured by fact camera

Local news

On the Local front today, an obituary for Celestine Hoffman, the granddaughter of a professional baseball player, seems an odd choice for "A LIFE."

The major element on young people who die of drug overdoses probably is a better candidate for Page 1 than "deadbeat dads" (L-1).

But "opioid" isn't a headline word, and I can't imagine what Production Editor Liz Houlton was thinking when she approved it.

Big-cheese news

Why is the Business section running a glowing profile of multimillionaire William Procida, "who helped revitalize the South Bronx in the 1980s" (B-1)?

Procida's company is based in Englewood Cliffs, but he lives in Piermont, N.Y., and one of his major loans may go to renovate a hotel in Philadelphia.

No-cheese news

The Better Living cover on hard times at food pantries clashes with the excess usually celebrated in the section, including the best dishes food critic Elisa Ung ate this month (BL-1 and BL-4).

In Ung's 4-star review of Cafe Matisse on Friday, I didn't see any mention of salads or vegetables, but she raved about the artery clogging desserts.

You'll have to call the restaurant to find out whether price-fixed dinners for $68, $88 and $108 include dessert, and whether you can substitute another dish, because she is silent on that, as well as whether the meat she sampled is naturally raised.

Healthy eating isn't a priority of the Better Living editors, as readers can see from the Saturday feature on homemade ice cream from freelancer Kate Morgan Jackson, who, if she actually eats all the stuff she writes about, must be as big as a house.

Jackson obviously isn't thinking of all of the diabetics in her audience or the many readers watching their weight or cholesterol.

Downtowns

The Real Estate front on empty-nesters moving downtown includes more information about Englewood's and Hackensack's business districts than has appeared in the paper in the last five years (B-1).

Hackensack news?

Since a flurry of news stories and a column in late June and early July on the removal of Hackensack Economic Development Director Anthony Rottino, who also was acting city manager, residents haven't seen much about their city.

Staff Writer Christopher Maag, who was assigned to replace Hannan Adely, seems to be writing about everything except Hackensack.

Second look

I am just catching up on papers I missed while I was on vacation, and a story on Price Rite caught my eye (L-7 and L-8 on July 1).

The editors continue to struggle with delivering photo captions that are coherent and don't duplicate what readers can see in the photo.

On the continuation page, a photo caption says, "Serge Rodriguez sorting out produce at the Price Rite in Garfield on Monday ahead of the store's 8 a.m opening today."

I do a lot of food shopping. But what is "sorting out produce"?




Friday, July 25, 2014

Marty's 'balanced' front page is all wrong for North Jersey

You can't argue with the license plate of a Smart car I saw on East 77th Street in Manhattan on Thursday, but its gas mileage is laughable -- much less than in a hybrid.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

You can almost see Editor Martin Gottlieb picking out stories to balance the front page of The Record today -- the shelling of a school in Gaza, a sensational Bergen County trial and an even more sensational lawsuit against Hackensack police, and a local "Loch Ness" teaser.

Most, if not all, of the stories are irrelevant to the lives of the vast majority of North Jersey residents, who live under a broken home-rule system of government that penalizes them with high property taxes.

Waste of space

Putting international news on Page 1 is a true waste of space, given the hours of TV coverage with the same focus the night before.

The Associated Press reports on the fighting in Gaza that Gottlieb has been running on Page 1 are the kind of body count journalism that seems prejudicial.

Is the media making any attempt to document Hamas' use of Palestinians as "human shields" by placing rocket launchers in residential neighborhoods, as Israel charges?

Instead of photos of the launchers, most of the stories are merely Hamas said/Israel said -- another case where the media shirk their responsibility and settle for sound bites.

Sloppy local section

Gottlieb may be putting a lot of care into balancing the front page today and every day, but that contrasts with the local staff's inability to completely report and intelligently edit even basic stories.

The major element on the Local front today doesn't even say whether passenger Miles Reme, 20, was wearing a seat belt before the crash in Ridgefield that killed the former high school athlete and seriously injured two other 20-year-olds, including driver Tamer Ammar (L-1).

The driver's DWI conviction, his being charged with reckless driving, and arrests for allegedly distributing Xanax and marijuana don't appear until deep on the continuation page (L-6).

Second look

In his July 13 column, Staff Writer John Cichowski made at least two big errors in discussing a plan to repave Paterson's pockmarked streets, according to the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers.

Cichowski wrote the mayor proposed to borrow $37 million, but on July 10, a story in The Record reported the mayor wants to spend $37 million and borrow $35 million of that.

The befuddled reporter also misspelled the name of Councilman Andre Sayegh, calling him "Andrew."

See:

More errors from Road Warrior Joan Cichowski


Thursday, July 24, 2014

It's not enough to criticize the PA behemoth from afar

The Record has written thousands of words criticizing the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan, but no reporter has actually boarded a bus to the city or joined the long lines of home-bound commuters who face delays on the platforms, where spring-loaded seating resembles a torture device outlawed by the Geneva Convention, above.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

How does a North Jersey newspaper cover the region's crowded public transit system?

If you are Editor Marty Gottlieb of The Record, you buy into what the lazy local assignment editors have done for decades:

You send reporters to cover the meetings of the mass-transit agencies, including NJ Transit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

In recent months, thousands of critical words about the antiquated Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan have merely parroted complaining letters to the editor, a state legislative hearing and the experiences of the bi-state agency's new chairman.

Rouse et al.

Commuters will cheer news the Port Authority board on Wednesday voted to approve $90 million in emergency repairs this year (A-1).

But that emergency spending could have come a lot sooner, if only the paper's transportation reporters actually rode mass transit and reported on the quality of the service, as the New York papers did for years with their subway columns.

A couple of years ago, Staff Writer Karen Rouse did report firsthand on the afternoon stampede for trains at New York's Penn Station, but Rouse apparently has never actually tried to get a seat on a city bound train or bus during the morning rush hour.

She also refused to ride the decrepit local buses in North Jersey -- relied on mostly by people who can't afford cars -- in the years before NJ Transit replaced them with new "talking" buses.

Boburg, Cichowski, Sforza

Shawn Boburg, who covers the Port Authority, has never reported on the need to expand the PATH commuter rail system or the reverse bus lane into the Lincoln Tunnel -- two parts of his beat.

The befuddled Road Warrior, John Cichowski, is hopelessly lost in the suburbs, and the so-called commuting column he has written for more than a decade has been taken hostage by drivers whose sanity is questionable. 

Anti-transit reporting

Of course, none of this is a surprise to readers who remember long, anti-light rail stories aimed at Englewood and Tenafly readers from then-reporter Tom Davis that were ordered by Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza, himself a failed transportation reporter.

Lines of home-bound commuters are as long as ever at the Manhattan hub, but the Port Authority did install touch-screen terminals on the main level that show bus routes and, more importantly for occasional users, the number of the gate where they can catch a bus.

I haven't seen that improvement reported in The Record.

Today, an editorial on the new Port Authority chairman, John Degnan, and emergency terminal repairs is careful to avoid reviewing all that Governor Christie has done to hurt mass transit (A-12).

Forgotten responsibility

I chuckled at Boburg's lead paragraph this morning:

"For years, the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan has seemed frozen in time, a forgotten giant in the agency's vast portfolio of transportation facilities" (A-1).

Indeed. The terminal has long been forgotten in the Hackensack and Woodland Park newsrooms, too.

More corrections

Three long corrections appear on A-2 today, including a rare error in a local obituary.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reporters miss the bus on delays at Manhattan terminal

Summer 2013: The line to board NJ Transit buses at the midtown Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan was so long that some North Jersey commuters had to wait on the level below the platforms, above. Despite the crowded conditions, one woman used an empty seat for her personal belongings, below.




By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The incoming Port Authority chairman took a bus to midtown Manhattan, rating the antiquated terminal "unacceptable," but why is the story on Page 1 of The Record today?

Really groundbreaking news would be the paper's transportation reporters routinely riding public transit, and rating the service, which has deteriorated in the past decade.

That way problems wouldn't sneak up and bite them on their lazy asses -- as did several angry letters to the editor from bus riders The Record published late last year.

$90 million in repairs?

In the interview with Port Authority Chairman John Degnan, Staff Writer Shawn Boburg reports:

"Under pressure from commuters and several North Jersey legislators, the Port Authority is expected to consider directing $90 million for stopgap repairs of the aging bus terminal, a move that has Degnan's support" (A-1).

Of course, both Boburg and his clueless assignment editor have until recently completely ignored the bi-state agency's involvement in public transit, including the PATH commuter rail line and the reverse bus lane into the Lincoln Tunnel.

Ditto goes for Road Warrior John Cichowski, who appears to be too infirm to board an NJ Transit bus or train, and prefers to field e-mail complaints from drivers about road-construction delays (L-1).

Officer Goodell

Staff Writers Allison Pries and Emily Masters covered the procession that carried the body of Waldwick Police Officer Christopher Goodell to St. Luke's Church in Ho-Ho-Kus on Monday, and reported on Tuesday's church service and burial (A-1 today and Tuesday).

The detail in those overlong stories doesn't make up for all of the unanswered questions on exactly what happened when a J.B. Hunt tractor-trailer loaded with produce slammed into Goodell's unmarked cruiser parked on the shoulder of Route 17 south early last Thursday.

The 32-year-old officer and Iraq war veteran, who was manning a radar checkpoint, was killed.

Press releases

Prosecutors say trucker Ryon Cumberbatch, who pleaded not guilty on Monday to second-degree vehicular homicide, crossed the shoulder and made no attempt to stop, but not whether he was speeding or asleep at 1:30 a.m. (L-1 on Tuesday).

The Record's reporters don't seem to have cultivated any law-enforcement news sources, forcing them to rely on press releases.

Nor has the Woodland Park daily urged police in Waldwick and other towns to start using traffic and speeding cameras to avoid putting officers like Goodell in harm's way.

Inconsistencies

Tuesday's front-page photo caption says Goodell "died Thursday morning," but just below that the text of the story notes the police officer died "early Thursday."

Tuesday's story predicted "roughly 6,000 mourners," but today's report says the ceremony was attended by "an estimated 3,500 people" (A-1).

And why in the lead paragraph today did the editors lump together Goodell with Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago, 23, who died under completely different circumstances (A-1).

Lame food coverage

The Better Living cover today celebrates the avocado as one of nature's "superfoods." 

Then, freelancer Rita Cookson negates its health benefits by recommending a salad made with avocados and bacon, which is filled with harmful animal antibiotics and hormones, as well as preservatives linked to cancer (BL-1 and BL-3).

The FYI column promotes a $40 three-course dinner at Due in Ridgewood when hundreds of Manhattan restaurants are serving $38 price-fixed dinners during Summer Restaurant Week (BL-2).

On Monday's Better Living cover, Food Editor Esther Davidowitz asked restaurant executive Grant Halliday what makes Roots Steakhouse in Ridgewood "different from all other steakhouse restaurants."

Unfortunately, Halliday claimed "our side offerings" are "unique," apparently because he couldn't boast that Roots serves naturally raised beef (a 24-ounce T-bone is $42.95).

Costco Wholesale sells cold-smoked wild Alaskan sockeye salmon year-round for under $19 a pound, but Staff Writer Elisa Ung promoted the cold-smoked artificially colored farmed salmon from Moveable Feast in Moonachie, a major restaurant supplier (BL-1 on Sunday).

Second look

Members of North Jersey motorcycle clubs modify their Harley-Davidsons to make them as noisy as possible -- annoying their neighbors to no end -- then find gullible reporters to write about their charitable giving.

I suppose Staff Writer Christopher Maag believes all the money raised by the Nam Knights Motorcycle Club in Carlstadt excuses the violation of every anti-noise ordinance on the books, as well as the lack of enforcement (Sunday's Local front).