Brooklyn Official: Don‚Äôt Put ‚ÄėMy Cousin Vinny‚Äô in Charge
By Evan Barton
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN ‚ÄĒ In response to two recent disasters ‚ÄĒ the collapse of the 1-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis and the Midtown steam pipe explosion here in New York ‚ÄĒ the American Engineering Alliance (AEA) and Professional Engineers (PE) held a press conference at the Manhattan foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.
In particular, they discussed the need for greater protection of city infrastructure.
The engineers criticized the Bloomberg administration for giving non-engineers and non-architects oversight over technical projects. They advocated more oversight by engineers and other technical professionals in government projects, and recommended a new position ‚ÄĒ deputy mayor of infrastructure management.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre trying to get our elected officials to pay attention to the seriousness of this problem,‚ÄĚ said Salvatore Galletta, chair of Professional Engineers. ‚ÄúElected officials are making decisions that they aren‚Äôt necessarily qualified to make.‚ÄĚ
State Sen. Eric Adams, D-Central Brooklyn/Park Slope, spoke in support of placing more engineers in government. ‚ÄúWhat informs your decisions, if you‚Äôre not technically informed to make decisions?‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúYou cannot put my cousin Vinny in charge‚ÄĚ of maintaining and updating city and state bridges, pipes, and other infrastructure systems, he said.
Councilman Alan Gerson, whose district encompasses the Manhattan sides of the Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Williamsburg Bridges, mentioned that New York‚Äôs infrastructure is more than a century old in many places. He suggested that technical oversight would be important in maintaining the system‚Äôs sustainability.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs no question that this city has one of the most complicated systems of any city in the world,‚ÄĚ he said, adding, ‚ÄúWhat has barely worked ‚ÄĒ and sometimes not worked ‚ÄĒ so far, cannot go forward.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄėBad Economic Decisions‚Äô
They generally advocated for a proactive approach to addressing the city‚Äôs aging infrastructure, practicing preventive measures to prevent future loss of life. Galletta suggested that engineers have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure the safety of the public, and placing non-engineer managers over government projects and fund allocation is inefficient and potentially dangerous.
‚ÄúAt the very least, you get bad economic decisions,‚ÄĚ he said, as well as investment in the wrong projects.
Both Galletta and Adams mentioned a ‚Äúdumbing down‚ÄĚ in many of the city‚Äôs appointed officials, which Adams suggested is dangerous in the long run. ‚ÄúWe can‚Äôt come back later and make retrospective repairs,‚ÄĚ he said, giving further support to the preventive approach.
According to a press liaison at the Department of Transportation (DOT), however, groups like AEA and PE primarily want more jobs for engineers.
In a prepared statement, ‚ÄúThere is no basis to the logic that the immediate supervisor of a licensed professional engineer must also be a licensed professional engineer. Under that logic, the mayor would be required to be a licensed professional engineer, attorney, teacher, certified public accountant, actuary, etc.‚ÄĚ
The Department of Transportation has a Bridge Repair and Preventative Maintenance unit that employs 34 people with engineering titles, as well as an additional 264 tradespeople and support staff. The executive director, Dorothy Roses, is responsible for the allocation of federal funds for preventative maintenance, taking these funds and transferring them into productive use.
Every engineer in this section reports to one of two professional engineers (George Klein or Mohammad Sharif), and if the immediate supervisor of an engineer in this section is not an engineer, then he or she cannot overrule an engineer on engineering matters.
‚ÄėJe Ne Sais Pas‚Äô
Several people crossing the bridge Monday afternoon said they would continue to do so. Two French visitors crossing the bridge said, ‚ÄúJe ne sais pas. Who knows what will happen?‚ÄĚ They suggested that crossing the bridge and seeing the view of the city was worth the risk.
Another walker stated, ‚ÄúI‚Äôve been walking across this bridge for 17 years, and I think it‚Äôs pretty safe.‚ÄĚ
¬© Brooklyn Daily Eagle 2007
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