The debate over who should kick up more money to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority did not die down this past week, as MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast threatened to slash projects from the capital plan if the city doesn’t contribute $3.2 billion he says the agency needs, and the transit workers union backed Prendergast’s position with a provocative advertisement that put Mayor Bill de Blasio squarely in its crosshairs.
Last month, Prendergast spoke to directly to de Blasio at a public event: “We need your help… without the $3.2 billion we need from the city, we will be unable to meet the capital needs that we need desperately for the program.”
A week prior to that statement, Prendergast said, “The MTA’s proposed 2015-19 Capital Program would invest $26.8 billion to renew, enhance and expand the transit network. We asked the state of New York to invest $8.3 billion, and Gov. Cuomo agreed. But when we asked the city of New York to invest $3.2 billion, they offered only $657 million. The city’s contribution has fallen far short of the rate of inflation, much less real support for the $800 billion worth of MTA assets within the five boroughs.”
According to a New York Daily News report, last week Prendergast asked MTA staff “to ax projects in the ‘urban portion’ of the $30 billion capital plan…”
This did not sit well with at least one Queens official.
“It is astonishing to me that the MTA would threaten to hold New York City transit projects hostage for more city money,” said Borough President Melinda Katz. “The MTA is an authority created by the legislature to deliver transit services throughout the region, not to stifle projects at the expense of millions of suffering customers.”
Transit Workers Union Local 100 this week placed an ad in media outlets that depicted de Blasio as the operator of a train covered in graffiti and straight out of a very different New York City.
Titled “Where Are You Taking Us?” the union warns that “unless Mayor de Blasio pays his fair share to the MTA’s desperately needed capital plan,” he “risks taking us back to the bad old days of the 1970s and 1980s when graffiti-covered subway trains regularly broke down and rickety buses sputtered from stop to stop.”
Asked for his thoughts on the ad, de Blasio called it “pitiful,” according to a Daily News report.
“The MTA is controlled and run by the State. While the State has underinvested for years – including at least $270 million raided from the MTA to go to Albany pet projects since 2011 alone – New York City has funded three-quarters of the MTA’s operating budget and put in more than twice as much capital funds as the State,” de Blasio spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick told The Forum this week. “Instead of recruiting surrogates to make false attacks, the State must do its job and work with the City on a fair and responsible framework to move forward.”
That framework, according to Spitalnick, involves identifying where the promised State funds will come from; returning the $270 million that has been raided from the MTA and committing to no further raids; ensuring that the primary funder of this State authority – New York City – has a greater say in which projects are funded.”
By Michael V. Cusenza firstname.lastname@example.org