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Help boro before buying trains, mayor tells MTA

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Mayor Bloomberg has reacted with alarm to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s decision to buy $238 million worth of commuter railroad cars, suggesting it will take money away from city subways and buses.

Transit advocates suggested Bloomberg’s uncustomary belligerence might, at least in part, have to do with the MTA’s hesitance to take over the faltering private bus routes that serve thousands of Queens commuters.

All three of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board members appointed by Bloomberg voted last Thursday against buying 120 cars for the Metro-North Commuter Railroad, which serves commuters in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties and western Connecticut.

“I think the MTA has sort of forgotten they were created to be a regional transportation system and the center of the region is right here in the city,” Bloomberg said.

“We have people in Co-op City, people in Queens, who don’t have the kind of mass transit they deserve and the MTA should first focus on providing that before they go and enhance the transportation they already provide elsewhere.”

The New York City Transit Authority, an MTA subsidiary which operates buses and subways, customarily gets 77 percent of the appropriations from the MTA. That share would fall to 72 percent under the MTA vote on Jan. 29, a change transit advocates fear might set a precedent.

The MTA board approved the purchase of rail cars for Metro-North by a vote of 7-3, with Mark Page, Mark Lebow and Susan Kupferman voting no. All three are mayoral appointees.

The purchase of new cars for Metro-North came following the widespread breakdowns of electric cars, some nearly 30 years old, during recent cold weather.

Gene Russianoff, attorney for the transit activist agency Straphangers Campaign, said Bloomberg had “a poor record of standing up to the MTA to protect bus and subway riders.”

“But this time, perhaps he is trying to show he has some Giuliani in him,” said Russianoff, referring to the former mayor’s pugnaciousness. “It may be that Bloomberg is taking a poke at the MTA, which he wants to take over the private bus routes and is not going to be so agreeable all the time.”

The contract between the city and the private bus companies operating in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn was to have expired Dec. 31 but was extended through June 30. A strike or collapse of the service would create havoc among bus riders in much of northeastern Queens, which has few subway lines.

The Bloomberg administration recently reduced New York City’ s contribution to the MTA capital program by nearly $90 million.

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

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