A Man Has Died And The Borough Is Silent
remember when they first sold us the AirTrain. . . way back when.
It was all
the good people of New York could get from the Port Authority and they had
to throw us something; after all, they took care of Newark.
So the folks
of the Port Authority set out, hired consultants and convinced the people
of New York that the AirTrain would ease the pain of thousands of
passengers going to and from Kennedy Airport; would provide an economic
boom to the downtown Jamaica community which would serve as the hub of the
operation; and finally, someday would hook up with future construction and
give us the long-awaited train to the plane — serving both Queens
airports and as a link to Manhattan in a magical mystery ride.
national identified as responsible for this
AirTrain crash on Sept. 27, 2002 which took the life of
Laurelton’s Kelvin DeBourgh Jr.,
has been whisked away to Turkey.
Photo by Shams Tarek
We bought it
or at least accepted it because it was that or nothing, and they went to
major mega-construction companies and with impressive speed and efficiency
we saw pillars march down the Van Wyck to the Airport. Then, almost nine
months ago, we saw the arrival of the actual AirTrain and slowly they
started testing the system.
— no matter whether we were duped or not — were becoming a reality.
The AirTrain was rolling.
September, a 23-year-old Laurelton employee of Canadian rail company
Bombardier — contracted by the Port Authority to build, test and operate
its AirTrain JFK light rail service — died when a train he was operating
derailed during a test run.
investigation conducted by the Port Authority all but entirely blamed
Bombardier, and repeatedly cited the shortcomings of a particular
supervisor as contributing to the accident. You can see the report at
supervisor — who won’t face any disciplinary action — has been
whisked away, at his request, to work in a foreign country shortly after
wondering, does anyone care?
Hang on, it
supervisor, we learned only by asking Bombardier, is nowhere near here.
The Turkish national “asked to transfer” to his native land shortly
after the accident, Bombardier said, and the company complied.
The company said it wouldn’t pursue any disciplinary actions
against this supervisor as the problems leading to the accident were
“issues of training and issues of process” and “the process moved
Get that, did
spokesman wouldn’t give any more details about what the supervisor is
doing in Turkey except to say that he’s doing “consulting projects.”
The family of
the dead operator has filed a notice of claim for $50 million against the
Port Authority, Bombardier and other companies possibly involved in the
accident. Its lawyer admitted it would be very difficult to get in touch
with this supervisor if they find him to be a central figure in a trial.
Authority’s report was released under the most stealth of conditions: at
the same time that it held a telephone press conference with reporters at
noon on April 15, Mayor Bloomberg made a major televised budget-cut
announcement that got him on front pages across the City the next day.
shocking is that even though human error was solely responsible for the
fatal accident, no humans are paying for it, especially the faulted
supervisor. He’s not even available to answer questions.
most shocking is that no one seems to care.
officials — who should care — are silent.
Transportation Committee Chair John Liu told us more than a week ago that
he needed a week for his staff to read the 11-page report and “absorb
what happened and the ramifications.” After that week passed, he still
had no comment on the report, telling us he — and most other people
involved in public transportation issues — is focused more on recent MTA
State Assembly Transportation Chair Richard Brodsky, who has also been
busy going after the MTA, didn’t seem to care, either. He didn’t even
know about the AirTrain report the day it came out and said he had no
specific plans to react to it, either.
Where is the
very large handful of Southeast Queens elected officials: the Congressman,
the State Senators, the Assembly members, the Councilmen?
Where is the
Borough President? The DA? Where is the City of New York? The State? The
Hey, there is
a headline available; won’t anyone step up and demand some answers?
Bombardier continues its multi-million dollar contract on quasi-public
money, the public loses six months, a man loses his life and Bombardier
transfers the “fall guy” out of the country and out of reach of any
operator’s family and its lawyer didn’t know about the report the week
it came out. They found out when we told them. And when we asked if they
were angry about the supervisor’s extraction from the country, the
response was lukewarm: they’re exploring systemic problems, not going
after an individual.
It seems an
extra dollar a day for an MTA commute is more important to most people
than the lives of the dead operator and the thousands of people who are
expected to ride the AirTrain everyday once it opens up later this year.
some important questions about the value of life.
some serious questions about the power of big corporations to manipulate
A man has
been killed through apparent malfeasance on the part of an employee of the
company who continues to operate the AirTrain. The project has suffered a
setback, depriving the people of the region the use of the AirTrain and
the people of Jamaica the economic benefits promised. A man has lost his
And now seven
months after the tragic death, we know who is allegedly responsible and
Bombardier — the man’s employer — has whisked this Turkish national
off to Turkey, where no one can question him and they continue with the
AirTrain business as usual.
And we sit
contributor: Shams Tarek
To Kill In NY
cleaning the office and came across the license plate above accompanied by
this letter from a former Republican Assembly candidate:
The New Year
has arrived and I am catching up on unfinished business.
A license plate, a gift
I have to admit that for me and my family it truly was an “annus
horriblis.” I have never lived a more difficult year other than when my
younger brother passed away. The negatives far outweighed the positives.
So when I look back at the events that kept me sane, I count our meetings
and your subsequent editorial comments as proof that there is still a
scintilla of hope for the truth seeing the light of day.
were the only person to publicly have the balls to speak honestly about my
campaign. I thank you. “Calling it straight” is something that I have
done all my life. I greatly admire that characteristic in a person. It
clearly has not gotten me fully to where I would like to be, but I just
could not do it any other way.
ago, the then Executive Director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce branded
me an agitator. Little did he know that I took the comment as a
compliment. I would like to bestow the same moniker on you.
the spirit of one who would have liked the “de jure” opportunity to
promote social change to one who has the “de facto” bully pulpit on a
weekly basis to do so, I have this request.
Since it is
not my property to give to you, I would like to know whether you would
accept this license plate until such time that you are no longer able or
willing to FIX-NYC. When that time comes, please return it to me so that I
can dispose of it according to the dictates of the New York State
Commissioner of Motor Vehicles.
I hope you
will accept this responsibility and place the plate somewhere that you can
view it often. This way when you do encounter a moment of weakness and
find the need to compromise your principles . . . you will know what to
Now that you
and your partners have a fresh opportunity to grow the business, I hope
you and your family prosper and succeed. But don’t forget to “do the
right thing” along the way.
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@queenspress.com