Good morning. It’s Tuesday. We’ll look at why two Democrats who were longtime allies have become opponents. We’ll also check in on London’s new train line and the top official at Transport for London, who used to be in charge of the subways in New York.
“East Side, West Side, all around the town” – it’s the opening line of a song about neighborliness and amiability. You probably won’t hear it in New York’s new 12th Congressional District in the next couple of months, and not just because it’s an old song.
A court-ordered redrawing of the state’s congressional lines combined the East and West Sides of Manhattan into one district for the first time since World War II – creating a crosstown clash between two Democratic Party elders who have been in Congress since the early 1990s: Representative Jerrold Nadler, an old-school progressive from the West Side, and Representative Carolyn Maloney, a pathbreaking feminist from the East Side.
Nadler told my colleague Nicholas Fandos that he had a private conversation with Maloney in which he suggested she try for another seat because he would win the Aug. 23 primary. “She said basically the opposite, and so it was an impasse,” Nadler said, “and we left it at that.”
Both have been working the phones to pressure union leaders, old political allies and wealthy donors – many of whom the two have shared for years – to pick sides.
A third Democrat, Suraj Patel, is also running. At 38, he is half the age of his opponents – Maloney is 76, and Nadler will turn 75 next month. Patel is building his campaign around the notion that it is time for a younger generation to take over, and he came within four percentage points of beating Maloney in the Democratic primary two years ago. Nadler has not had a close race in nearly 50 years, going back to when he was in the State Assembly before moving to Congress.
Now they are running in a redrawn district. How well does each know the other’s side of town?
Nadler named the Metropolitan Museum as his favorite East Side institution: “Ever since I saw” The Ten Commandments “as a kid, I’ve been interested in Egypt.”
Maloney fumbled when reaching for the name of a restaurant loved by generations of New Yorkers.
“There’s a deliver over there; it’s called Grassroots, ”she said, only to be interrupted by an aide who reminded her that she meant Barney Greengrass. “You’ve gone a million times,” the aide said.
Gary Greengrass, whose grandfather founded the Amsterdam Avenue mainstay in 1908, said he could not remember seeing Maloney there but that Nadler was a frequent customer.
The State of New York City’s Subway
Still, Greengrass said he planned to “stay like Switzerland” as far as the campaign is concerned. Neutral.
Prepare for a sunny day near the mid-90s. At night, expect a slight chance of showers with temperatures dropping to the mid-60s.
In effect until June 6 (Shavuot).
The latest New York news
Behind a new train line, a familiar figure
London’s long-awaited $ 22 billion Elizabeth railway line opened last week. I asked our London bureau chief, Mark Landler, about the new line and the transit official who saw it to completion: Andy Byford, who ran New York City’s subway system for two years until February 2020.
Your new Elizabeth line sounds like our Second Avenue subway. It took years to build and was on the drawing board for decades before that. But the Elizabeth line is longer. How did London pull it off?
There was bipartisan political support for the project, which was funded through municipal and national funds. Transport for London, the city’s public transit authority, has a bureaucratic advantage over New York City’s counterpart, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, because it oversees virtually every mode of transport in London. The MTA has a narrower purview. It is also controlled by the governor of New York, which means it must compete for funding with upstate projects.
You wrote that comparing London’s transit system with New York’s is inevitable. What about the personalities Byford deals with now, compared with those he dealt with in New York?
In New York, Andy Byford deals with an assertive hands-on governor in Andrew Cuomo, with whom he clashed over technical issues in upgrading the subway system. He had little relationship with the then-mayor, Bill de Blasio, because New York’s mayor has no control over the subways. Clashes with Cuomo led to Byford’s departure.
In London, city and national leaders all get involved in public transit projects. The good news for Byford is that the Conservative prime minister, Boris Johnson, was an enthusiastic backer of Crossrail when he was mayor of London, and remained so in Downing Street. Sadiq Khan, the current Labor mayor, is also a supporter. To the extent there were tensions between Khan and Johnson, Byford played the role of honest broker.
In April 2020, subway ridership in New York was 8.3 percent of what it was in April 2019, and on weekdays now it’s not quite 60 percent of its prepandemic levels. How did Transport for London’s ridership fare during the pandemic?
Ridership plummeted to 5 percent during the depths of London’s pandemic lockdowns. It has since recovered to 70 percent of prepandemic levels on weekdays, and close to 90 percent on weekends. But weekday ridership has hit a plateau in recent weeks, which may reflect more lasting changes in the number of people working in offices.
Byford believes that 90 percent of prepandemic ridership is still a realistic target, though he concedes that getting back to 100 percent may be out of reach.
Why does the Elizabeth line make the case for public transportation if fewer workers return to offices?
The Elizabeth line dramatically reduces the time of commute from Heathrow Airport to the city’s major financial districts, the City and Canary Wharf. That is important to preserving London’s competitiveness as a financial center post-Brexit.
It will also make central London more accessible to people who live in outlying suburbs to the west and east.
Byford speaks of London evolving along the lines of Paris, with a more residential center city. Over time, that could offset the loss of office workers.
What about the “wow” factor of the Elizabeth line? Was Byford right when he said it’s a game changer?
The Elizabeth line’s trains have roomy coaches, a whisper-quiet ride and are twice the length of regular tube trains. The platforms seem to stretch to infinity. The stations are vast, cathedral-like spaces, each with their own architectural motif. The Liverpool Street station, for example, has pinstripes etched into the ceilings to pay homage to the bankers who toil in the office towers above the station.
Time will tell, obviously, whether the Elizabeth line will transform public transportation in London. But based on its design and rider experience, Byford is not wrong to say it’s a game changer.
‘Mona Lisa’ at the Met
It was a frigid February day in 1963. I was 10, and my sister was 6. We were lined up with my father in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the “Mona Lisa.” It was there on display. My father was ecstatic about this great opportunity.
“You’ll never forget this day,” he told me excitedly in his Brooklyn accent while repeatedly swatting my upper arm. “You’ll never forget that we came to see the ‘Mona Lisa.'”
Almost 60 years later, I have no recollection of the “Mona Lisa,” but I do remember standing on Fifth Avenue in front of that magnificent building with my enthusiastic and adorable dad.
– Donna Damico
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together. I’m going to take the next few days off. Anne Barnard will be here, and I’ll be back on Monday. – JB
PS Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa GuerreroJeff Boda and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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