Queens politicians praise MTA’s fare hike rollback

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Several Queens elected officials hailed a Manhattan judge’s order to the MTA to roll back the fare hike on the grounds that transit officials provided inaccurate financial data to the riding public in pursuit of an increase.

But the fate of the $2 bus and subway fare now is in the hands of an appeals court because the Metropolitan Transportation Authority appealed the May 14 ruling within hours after State Supreme Court Justice Louis York ordered the fare increase rescinded. He gave the MTA two weeks to carry out his order.

That sent the case to the State Supreme Court Appellate Division for further arguments this week by attorneys for the Straphangers Campaign, the transit advocacy agency which brought the suit to reverse the fare hike, and the MTA.

“For the MTA to fully regain our confidence, Chairman (Peter) Kalikow must resign immediately,” said City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), chairman of the Council’s Transportation Committee. “This is a tremendous victory for the people of New York.”

“I urge the MTA to listen to the court and take this opportunity to right a wrong,” said City Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills). “It is good to know that it is possible for the right side to triumph.”

Queens straphangers and LIRR commuters greeted the judge’s ruling with both euphoria and skepticism over whether he would prevail as the case moved through the courts.

In a separate action, the Automobile Club has filed a separate suit against the MTA asking that the recent hike in tolls on bridges and tunnels be overturned, an area not covered by York's ruling.

York ordered the rollback of transit fares to $1.50 along with the 25 percent increase in commuter train fares, saying the 10 public hearings held by the MTA were invalid because the agency had given “false and misleading” financial information about how serious its financial situation was.

Both New York City Comptroller William Thompson and state Comptroller Alan Hevesi had accused the MTA of hoodwinking the public about its finances. Hevesi said the agency, which he termed “arrogant and contemptuous of the public,” kept two sets of books and concealed a $512 million surplus to make it seem a transit hike was needed now rather than in 2004.

The MTA had denied any wrongdoing or attempts to mislead the public.

The Automobile Club used the same argument in its suit against the increase in bridge and tunnel tolls.

Kalikow, who came under criticism for showing up at only two of the MTA’s 10 public hearings on the fare hike, issued a statement that said “putting our customers on an emotional roller coaster is just unfair.”

Meanwhile, the MTA fired its director of security, Louis Anemone, and his assistant, Nicholas Casale. Both officials, who said they would sue the agency, had complained the MTA tried to block their investigations.

Anemone, formerly a highly decorated police officer, and Casale said they would ask that the MTA be ordered to restore their jobs and pay damages for defamation.

The MTA first put the two men on administrative leave more than a month ago after they accused the agency of interfering with their investigations. The office of MTA inspector general, Matthew Sansverie, had said Anemone and Casale reported contacting what turned out to have been a fictitious secret informant in an investigation. Both men denied it.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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