Student First Journal

All the news unfit to the First Amendment

By: Abrahan Cruz

A general summary of a plan to place Gondolas over the east river and Randall's Island, connecting the Bronx and Queens with a means of public transportation, has yet to be seen.

Despite the Bronx and Queens being near each other and sharing three suspension bridges, there is no means of public transportation between these boroughs that directly bypasses traffic, i.e. a subway rail.

During the construction of the Whitestone bridge, an organization known as the RPA (Regional Plan Association) recommended that the bridge be able to accommodate rail traffic when it opened or sometime in the future. The city planner made no such accommodations. Instead, in order to get from one borough to the other one must either own a car, use an unreliable bus service, or take a train to Manhattan and transfer to another going to Queens.

Source: Wired

According to the NYC Department of Transportation’s Bridge and Traffic Report, traffic over the Whitestone Bridge was recorded at 109,862 vehicles in 2015 and 124,337 in 2016, a 13.2% increase. (DOT, 2016, pp.11)

The report also records traffic over the Throgs Neck Bridge at 116,658 vehicles in 2015 and 119,249 in 2016, a 2.2% increase. (DOT, 2016)

Finally, traffic over the Triboro Bridge (Officially the RFK Memorial Bridge) was recorded at 84,220 vehicles in 2015 and 83,053 in 2016, a 1.4 % decrease in traffic.

For context, the most transited bridge in the world is the George Washington Bridge, carrying an average of 289,827 vehicles daily in 2016.

What must also be taken into account is that these numbers represent the large magnitude of commuters which come from suburban areas outside New York City. The bridges benefit residents outside of the communities in their direct impact. They tend to get heavily congested around rush hour due to the surrounding traffic on highways that these bridges connect.

The fact that there is no train exclusively connecting the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn, or exclusively the Bronx and Queens only makes matters worse. While a bus running through a select bus route might save time in traffic on city streets, it cannot account for traffic over bridges as there is no dedicated lane for them and such an idea would be extremely unpopular. Even if these buses can be reliably dependent, residents don't have the confidence in the on-time performance of buses compared to that of trains, though both can be traced to systematic problems in the MTA. Nevertheless, trains are generally considered to be faster and a bypass to burdensome city traffic. There are only 2 bus routes going between the Bronx and Queens. The Q44, which became a select bus service route on November 29th, 2015, and the Q40. Despite this, residents still report unreliability with bus service (even though select bus service lines are less prone to delays than their limited service counterparts). The other bus, the Q50, connects co-op city to queens ( Therefore, the bus lines are inadequate and fail to serve the more impoverished sections of the Bronx, which happen to be the sections closest to Queens geographically (OSC, 2018).

A Gondola System over the RFK bridge and one of the two bridges that go over the Long Island Sound would be beneficial to residents who otherwise wouldn't have access to the other borough without heading into midtown Manhattan. It could be advertised as a possible part of a route to Laguardia International Airport and a transfer between the 6 (IRT Lexington line) and N/W (BMT Broadway line). The city would also gain some good publicity and some light tourism from the opening of these Gondolas. Not to mention the existing infrastructure of the bridges could help with the placement of these Gondolas and save immensely on the overall project budget.

Urban Gondolas have become a necessity in cities like Medellin, Rio De Janeiro, and Santo Domingo, where they serve to decrease traffic congestion and service outer and more disadvantaged neighborhoods. They are also cheaper to build than subway rails and other related infrastructure. A similar project suggested for the Williamsburg bridge was estimated to be significantly cheaper and faster to build than the $2 billion and five years it took to build the 7 line extension. The three open stations for the second avenue subway cost around $2.4 billion, with certain segments of those tunnels already in place from construction in the 70s.

The Gondola system would be a good way to incorporate neighborhoods that haven't historically had much connection despite being geographically close to each other. It could alleviate congestion from Bronx residents that would otherwise take the Lexington line of trains (4, 5, 6 IRT) which has a daily ridership of 1,289,338 people and is the predominant subway transportation in the Bronx. It would replace unreliable bus lines that could otherwise get stuck in traffic on the bridges and could provide the areas with a boost in tourism as well as alternate transport to Laguardia Airport in Queens.

There is a lack of more localized and residential data to measure the full scope and impact that a Gondola project would have, but it would undoubtedly be a good start to expanding outer-borough transportation.

Yours disrupting,


By Triana Nunez

I want to inform you guys on what an IEP is and what it is like to have one. IEP stands for “individualized education program.” An IEP is a written statement for a child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting in keeping with certain requirements of law and regulations (DOE, 2007). If it not for my teacher in the fifth grade who noticed that I was having trouble seeing things, I really would not have an IEP. I noticed I needed extra time on exams when I went on to middle school. And I would continue to take tests to show that I needed the extra time.

I would always get evaluations to prove that I would still need my IEP moving forward. I did not think I would need to keep proving that I needed extra help. This was frustrating after a while because it’s not like my disability was going to disappear after a year; I know this is something I’m going to have for the rest of my life. At the same time, I understand why they kept evaluating me to see if I had worsened or gotten better throughout the year. When I got to high school I had to make it known to my teachers that I had an IEP, even though you would think that they’d already know this. A good thing about this was that I would have double time on my exams meaning a test could be 3 hours long and I would have 6 hours to complete it; of course I would use this to my advantage. I can't say I was embarrassed because from my friend group I was the only one who had this, so while my friends finished their exams about 2 hours before me I was still working. When it came to testing, my friends were all put in the same class and I ended up in a different one. At first they thought it was a misunderstanding, but I eventually told them that I had extra timing due to my IEP. I was scared that they would judge me but they never did, so I wasn't upset.

College is nothing like high school. I thought that maybe the professors would know just a little bit of my history, but they didn’t. My college professor said if anyone had an IEP they would have to go to another building to get a specific form and bring it back to her. When we had our one on one I told her I had an IEP, to which she replied that I was the only one in the class that said anything about having an IEP but I would still need to bring the form to her. I was shocked because in high school I would tell a teacher the same thing and they would be much more supportive.

My overall feeling is that having an IEP helped me when it came to testing. The extra time came in handy and I really tried to use the good things that came out of it. It was also good having teachers check up on me, making sure I’m understanding everything, and giving me that extra attention.

Yours disrupting,


By Tahlya Valcourt

Good evening,

My name is Tahlya Valcourt and I am a junior at City College Academy of the Arts, and the Editor-in-Chief of the school's newspaper, The Claw Weekly. During this critical political time, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has served as a beacon of hope and possibility for the youth at my school. We viewed her win over District 14 with respect to the bigger picture, it was the first step toward the change we so desperately need. Her being hispanic and a woman was especially inspiring to my schoolmates and I, where the minority is the majority.

It has recently come to my attention, much to my dismay, that Representative Ocasio-Cortez has declined the offer proposed by my teacher, Dennis Mihalsky to come and speak to the junior class/school newspaper. Personally, when Mr. Mihalsky introduced the idea to me, I was ecstatic.

I am actively engaged in politics and I want to become a lawyer when I grow up. This past summer, I got the opportunity to work for the former Assistant District Attorney of New York State (now immigration lawyer), Marisel Rodriguez through SYEP. I learned many of the inner workings of the government and how President Trump actually has a greater impact on immigration and the lives of those in my own neighborhood than anyone my age would realize. Being a young Puerto Rican woman living in Washington Heights, I don't find many hispanic representatives in the government, let alone Puerto Rican women, so seeing former DA Marisel Rodriguez, Justice Sotomayor and Representative Ocasio-Cortez rise up against a system designed to oppress is extremely crucial to me. It gives me hope that I, too, one day can be just as successful. They show me that factors such as my heritage or where I live can not stop me and I will use what they have taught me to become the best lawyer I can be.

Beyond that, I do understand that Representative Ocasio-Cortez is busy in view of the fact that it is important for her to expand her notability for her campaign, and I agree as she is someone I would choose to represent me any day. However, I also believe that it is mutually beneficial that Representative Ocasio-Cortez donates her time to the students here for multiple reasons.

Our school is located in Inwood, meaning that most of our students (and parents) are constituents in Representative Ocasio-Cortez's district. Also, this would be a great opportunity for her to help shape some of the young minds of our generation and show us the benefits of having descriptive representation. We need to know that someone is willing to represent and fight for us!

Young progressive representatives like Ocasio-Cortez are why many of us are becoming more politically active at such a young age (we've even created our own student government in an attempt to protest against oppression of student rights) and for those of us who choose to vote in the 2020 Presidential Election, it will be our first time. The guidance from Representative Ocasio-Cortez would be much appreciated to lift our country up and establish a government which we can proudly call ours.

Finally, let's not forget that the growing youth are some of the most important people in this country. As Whitney Houston once said, "The children are our future." \

I hope you and the AOC team take some time to reconsider our offer. The benefits can and will outlast any of us.

Thank you.


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