Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Don't Tickle Elmo at Hoboken Terminal

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Don't Tickle Elmo at Hoboken Terminal

Article excerpt

ELMO stared down on the waiting room. The "Sesame Street" character took the form of a half-inflated Mylar balloon caught in the intricate plasterwork of the ceiling of Hoboken Terminal's main waiting room. A small bird furtively darted above.

If it was desolate from on high, it was near disgusting below. I sat in the waiting room Wednesday morning sipping a coffee and waiting for my train. I had a clear view of the other side of the terminal because I had just moved from a bench opposite. Hoboken Terminal is in mourning. Everything is covered in plywood and plastic. Even the shoeshine stand is covered. There were barricade fences blocking the stand. I can only assume there had been a rumor a flash mob was set to descend on the terminal and reenact the finale of Act I of "Les Miserables."

The floor is warped from the water damage of superstorm Sandy. It is filthy, or, as my mother would have said when something was especially unclean, it was filthy dirty. I had changed benches because my previous choice of seating was next to a bench occupied by an indigent man. Even before Sandy, the terminal was often more than half-occupied by the indigent population of Hoboken.

A wind shift inside the terminal had made it quickly apparent that the only fast movement in the rail station was inside the aforementioned indigent man's lower intestine.

I note all this because last week, NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein testified before the state Senate Budget Committee. The committee's chairman, Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, has emerged these past months as a constant, loud and rational voice for accountability from NJ Transit. I listened to portions of the testimony online. Sarlo was determined to get answers -- and he did.

The head transit official offered this piece of news to Sarlo about Hoboken Terminal: "It's on the Hudson River. It floods. It just does."

Until last week, I had the impression, one made by NJ Transit, that it never floods around Hoboken Terminal and that is why some train equipment was stored in a rail yard not far from the terminal. The equipment was damaged. Now I know why. It floods. It just does.

Transit officials keep reminding the public that the Meadows Maintenance Complex in Kearny, where Sandy did much damage to rail equipment, had never flooded in the history of NJ Transit. That sounds like a very long dry spell. NJ Transit was created in 1979.

Now the agency knows the maintenance yard built in a swamp does flood. It just does.

I wish Sarlo had asked Weinstein whether NJ Transit is studying moving the yard given the now-known flooding issue. And just for historical perspective, how a rail yard ever came to be built in a swamp. Record Staff Writer Karen Rouse reported last week that NJ Transit will not reveal how many pieces of equipment it moved from other locations into the Meadows facility prior to Sandy. …

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