Brooklyn officials, transit advocates slam diversion of $30M From MTA
Brooklyn officials were in the vanguard yesterday of protests against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s diversion of $30 million in tax-revenue funds meant for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and transferring the money elsewhere within the state bureaucracy.
MTA spokesman Sal Arena told the Eagle that “this was tax revenue in excess of the MTA budget, and it is the purview of the governor or legislature to use it for something else. That’s what happened with the $30 million.”
In other words, according to the MTA, the actual budget has been met, and the $30 million is not cutting into the transit agency’s budget needs. Arena also pointed out that because of “enhancements in the budget,” the agency was able to reduce the amount of the fare increase schedule for 2015.
However, transit advocates and local officials say that the extra money could have been used for others things, such as keeping buses and subway cars cleaner and restoring some of the bus routes that were cut in 2010.
In particular, Brooklyn legislators from both parties opposed the governor’s move (which originally would have encompassed $40 million).
In 2011 and 2013, Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D-Park Slope) and State Senator Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge) sponsored a “lock box” bill, which would protect funds allocated to the MTA from being used elsewhere. Both times, the Assembly and Senate passed the bill, only to be vetoed by the governor.
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Bay Ridge/Staten Island) pointed out that while the B-37 bus connecting Bay Ridge and Sunset Park to Downtown Brooklyn has been partially restored, many riders are unhappy that it now ends at Barclays Center and hasn’t been extended to its original terminal on Court Street.
In addition, she said, many riders want weekend service to be restored on the X-27 express bus from Shore Road to Midtown Manhattan and the X-28 express bus from Bensonhurst.
“In general, southern Brooklyn has many transit needs,” said Malliotakis, “This is what’s wrong with the MTA—they take on a lot of debt for things they can’t afford, and when it comes time to pay for them, they raid the operating budget. That’s why I have been a very strong advocate of lock box legislation.”
Gene Russianoff, attorney and spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign, an advocacy group, said, “They took away the money from the Metropolitan Mass Transit Revenue Account that the budget didn’t appropriate, rather than leave it there for when the need comes up, or to provide new service, or to help contribute to the next five-year capital campaign.
“There are many examples of what $30 million could buy—it could make crowding standards more generous on several subway lines, or create new bus routes.”
Russianoff mentioned the B37 bus as well as the need for cleaner subway cars and buses. “We’ve recommended more than once that the MTA set aside money for a cleaning fund, with dollars to go toward cleanup.” That suggestion, he said, was rejected.
Also opposing the governor’s action was Dan Hendrick of the League for Conservation Voters. “New Yorkers have a carbon footprint one-third the size of the average American’s,” he said, “and one of the reasons is because of mass transit.”
The budget was signed by Governor Cuomo on Monday night.
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