Mayor de Blasio Is Irked by a Subway Delay

5 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Council transportation committee pushes for federal funding.

In a stern, bullet-pointed missive on Monday, the mayor described a star-crossed attempt at riding the subway to a speaking engagement in Midtown Manhattan. Mayor de Blasio met the MTA’s capital budget request Monday — or he thought he had, until the agency turned around and asked for nearly $2 billion more.The MTA asked the city on Monday to significantly step up spending on the Second Avenue Subway and to give more cash for repairs to its transit network. “Ridership has never been higher.The city will announce this week it’s bolstering its capital contribution to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — but, mere days before that increase is unveiled, the MTA is asking for more.

City officials told The Associated Press on Monday that Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s upcoming budget will include $125 million this year for the region’s transportation agency. A train never came — and when the mayor resurfaced, his security vehicles were nowhere in sight. “The detail drove away when we went into the subway rather than waiting to confirm we got on a train,” Mr. de Blasio wrote in the email, addressed to Deputy Inspector Howard Redmond, the head of his Police Department security detail. “We need a better system.” Mr. de Blasio, who has been making a concerted effort to repair his reputation for tardiness, copied two senior aides on the email, including his chief of staff. The committee members pressed Congress to pass the Grow America Act, a six-year funding plan which would increase federal government investment by 45 percent, or $317 billion for the country’s roads and highways, $115 billion for transit systems and $5.1 billion for public transportation. “For the state of New York, that means almost $735 million more for our state,” said Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the council’s transportation committee. “With these increases we can ensure New York City will pave more roads, expand protected bike lanes, install more calming measures, more arterial streets, and expand our transit network to communities hungry for transit resources.” Department of Transportation commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who supports the Council’s resolution and provided written testimony during Monday’s hearing, said the city’s metropolitan region currently relies on $2 billion in annual federal funds, and 25 percent of the D.O.T.’s capital investments are federally funded.

The request came the same morning City Hall confirmed it would meet the M.T.A.’s prior request for $657 million—and days after it began printing executive budget books with the line item. When combined with a $32 million city match to a federal grant, the funding will match the $657 million in capital contributions from the city that the MTA had requested last fall. But also on Monday, MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast wrote a letter delivered to First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris in which he increased the MTA’s request to $300 million a year to help keep the system in a state of good repair. Trottenberg said having to keep up with maintaining existing infrastructure while preparing for future transportation needs is out of reach for the department. “Thirty five billion more will be needed over the next ten years alone for transit improvement and expansion projects,” Trottenberg said. “We have reached a point of crisis for our transportation network. De Blasio on Monday said that the city was increasing funding because “mass transit is a lifeline for New Yorkers” but added that larger state and federal funding plan is needed to aid the MTA, which has a $14 billion capital budget deficit.

Subway ridership has grown to six million riders on some days and is expected to increase in the coming years, which will add pressure on the system, Mr. The agency’s chief financial officer, Robert Foran, warned last week that fares and tolls could jump 15 percent unless New York state lawmakers provide funding. “Our CFO was describing what a hypothetical fare increase would look like in order to generate the debt service to cover the roughly $14 billion we need for our capital program.” Kevin Ortiz, MTA spokesman, said. “It was a conjectural statement about math, not a statement about anything the MTA board is contemplating.” (TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. Officials say they had agreed to fully fund the MTA’s initial request and planned to announce it Monday, but that the state authority moved the goal posts. The Brooklyn district attorney decided not to file charges against a retired correction officer who fatally shot a man during a confrontation at a subway station. Prendergast said. “Now, at this critical juncture, is the right time for the city to acknowledge the need for significantly increased investment in the M.T.A., and the city’s future,” he wrote.

Authorities said the dispute began when 32-year-old Gilbert Drogheo, and another man started bothering 69-year-old William Groomes on a subway train March 10. The state budget approved earlier this year bolstered funding to the MTA by $1 billion, which included $250 million earmarked for building four Metro-North stations in the Bronx.

Chris Christie has conditionally vetoed legislation barring the state from making investments with firms whose money managers have contributed to national political campaigns. And while it has been apparent the M.T.A. believed the city could make a larger commitment, the figures in the chairman’s request also came as a surprise.

The measure would also have required a quarterly report to the Legislature showing the state’s return on investments as well as fees charged by external money managers. In comments after the agency’s board meeting last week, Prendergast said the M.T.A. has “an excellent relationship with the city” and that “we’re pretty much in alignment about the things we have to do.” “But we do need some help from them in terms of finance,” he said. “Because, right now, it’s not even $100 million. It needs to be up, probably, closer to $200 million.” The agency is running out of time to find the funding it needs for the plan, $22 billion of which is dedicated to projects that are merely meant to provide a “state of good repair.” The state Legislature ends its session in June, and Prendergast has said he remains in productive discussions with the state. Sponsors argue that financial professionals who handle the state’s $80 billion pension fund should be free from even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

In an event being billed as “Salsa in the Square,” Team USA and the Cubans will wrestle on American soil on May 21 for the first time since the 2003 world championships, Team USA said. A spokeswoman for Governor Andrew Cuomo did not respond to an email this morning asking if the Democrat had pushed the M.T.A. to make the larger request of the city.

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