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MTA says subway service is improving, but are its stats reliable?

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Plus, developers embrace vanity flooring for supertalls—and more intel in today’s New York Minute news roundup

New York City Subway Train Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Good morning, and welcome to New York Minute, a new roundup of the New York City news you need to know about today. Send stories you think should be included to tips@curbed.com.

The MTA’s on-time performance metric has a history of fraud

Last week, the MTA released its latest batch of on-time performance (OTP) numbers for the NYC subway (the metric it regularly uses to determine if service is improving), and the stats are, on the surface, pretty good. According to the agency, OTP hit 84 percent in August, the highest it’s been since 2013—and for riders who remember the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad summer of 2017, that’s a reason to cheer.

Or is it? Jalopnik reporter (and Curbed contributor) Aaron Gordon revived his dormant Signal Problems newsletter over the weekend to dig into the issue of OTP, and, well, here’s the relevant line:

On-Time Performance, the stat most often cited when evaluating subway performance, has a dirty secret. For much of its history, it’s been fraudulent.

Gordon obtained a 1994 report on OTP from the MTA’s then-inspector general, which gets into the various ways the system was exploited, and how the MTA responded. The short version: Dispatchers juked the stats, making it appear as if service was much better than it was; once this was discovered (initially, in 1986), the MTA promised to fix the problem, but didn’t. While the way OTP is captured now has changed, the history of fraud—and the questions it raises about how reliable these stats are—remains.

“What bothers me the most reading the MTA IG report is not the crime, but the cover up, and the reminder that the subway crisis was a decades-developing debacle brought about by institutional rot,” Gordon writes. “Decades of warning signs were swept under the rug or merely brushed aside for a future generation of managers, workers, and riders to deal with.”

Tall buildings not as tall as real estate developers want you think

Among the many ways developers try to make their ultra-fancy buildings sound more impressive to potential buyers: vanity flooring, as reported by the New York Post.

“Nearly every new luxury condo in the city’s latest wave of super-tall construction mislabels floors to stroke buyers’ vanity,” the Post writes, using 432 Park Avenue—which has 88 floors, but penthouses listed as high up as the 96th floor—as the example.

“If you have the 95th floor in your address, that’s going to be impressive to pretty much everyone,” broker Leonard Steinberg of Compass told the paper. “Being on the 95th floor is unbelievable. In how many cities can you even live on the 95th floor?”

And remember, folks: The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has specific numbers that determine whether a building is a supertall (984 feet or higher) or just, you know, tall.

And in other news…

  • Speaking of supertalls, New York YIMBY reports that One Vanderbilt is approaching its apex, as construction has wrapped up on the building’s crown, with spire installation soon to follow.
  • The Brooklyn Eagle and the Queens Daily Eagle polled all 51 City Council members to see how they might vote on the plan to replace Rikers Island with four borough-based jails. The takeaway: Many are still undecided.
  • A mother and daughter who snagged a Bronx apartment through the city’s affordable housing lottery are the Times’s latest Renters.
  • Brooklyn City Council member Carlos Menchaca is due to announce his position on the contested rezoning of Industry City today—but sources tell Crain’s a deal has already been struck (a fact that the councilmember’s spokesperson denies).
  • Don’t make your fall foliage day trip plans just yet: Leaves are taking longer to turn thanks to warmer weather, according to the New York Post. A foliage report from the state’s main tourism agency shows that peak leaf-peeping may not happen until mid-October—or even early November in NYC.
  • And finally, feast your eyes on delightfully silly (and, okay, a little unsettling) illustrations of New York by Dutch artist Madelon Vriesendorp; one of them, with the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building caught in flagrante by 30 Rock, appeared on the cover of Rem Koolhaas’s seminal tome Delirious New York.

Got a story or piece of information we should include? Send us a note at tips@curbed.com.