[DM] New York’s public transportation system has come under fire for spending a whopping $100 million on mysterious metal towers that have popped up at the entrances of tunnel as many New Yorkers remain baffled over how they work.
The 30-feet-tall MTA Gateway Towers are a part of Gov Andrew Cuomo’s $100 million vision to redesign the MTA’s bridges and tunnels in the city.
But not everyone knows the purpose of these towers, including folks on the MTA board.
‘I don’t actually know what those are,’ Neal Zuckerman, an MTA boardmember, told Politico.
The towers will soon start appearing at bridges, and by the time the project is completed there will be a total of 18 across the city.
New York resident, Jose Lugo, told CBS that the towers started to appear after the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel toll booths came down.
But, he said, ‘we don’t really know what’s the purpose of this’.
Reinvent Albany, a New York-based watchdog group, believes the towers are just for decoration.
‘It’s a bit mind-boggling that the MTA is approving $100 million for what appears to us to be big, decorative pylons,’ John Kaehny, the leader of Reinvent Albany, told CBS.
‘What we’re asking for is transparency from the MTA,’ he added.
Earlier this month, Reinvent Albany asked the Authorities Budget Office to investigate whether the ‘MTA board was fully informed, before approving contracts’ related to the governor’s program on bridges and tunnels.
The group is trying to figure out if the MTA board knew what it was doing when it approved a series of contract amendments up to $47 million worth of expenses for the towers that currently sit at the entrance to the Battery and Queens Midtown Tunnels.
But the individuals in charge are staying tight-lipped about what the towers actually do.
Cedrick Fulton, the head of the MTA’s bridges and tunnels, refused to comment and the MTA chaiman Joe Lhota said he wasn’t ‘at liberty to discuss’ details of the project.
However, Lhota did tell CBS that the towers include ‘whatever fiber optics are necessary for those Homeland Security items’.
Shams Tarek, a spokesman for the MTA, told Politico that the towers ‘host cameras, traffic monitoring and other equipment related to homeland security that would otherwise have been hosted by the former toll booth structures’.
According to the initial plan that was laid out last October, Cuomo’s vision is to reimagine New York’s crossings for the 21st century.
‘The plan will institute state-of-the-art automatic tolling at all MTA bridges and tunnels – reducing traffic congestion and decreasing emissions to improve the overall travel experience for millions of residents and visitors in New York State,’ the press release said at the time.
‘At the Governor’s direction, the state will also deploy cutting-edge technology and security personnel to high-profile crossings in New York to enhance public safety and fortify anti-terror efforts.’
So despite residents and MTA boardmembers feeling left in the dark about these towers, it seems to be clear that they will partly be used as anti-terror technology.
Cuomo announced Wednesday that cashless tolling will start this weekend for the last two New York City bridges with toll booths that still accept cash.
He said the cashless tolling will be implemented starting at 3am on Saturday at the Bronx-Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges.