Electeds, MTA pitch ideas on how to bring in money

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In the quest for major money to save the city transit system, several officials have offered their ideas, ranging from higher vehicle registration fees to selling off the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s real estate.

City Councilmen Eric Gioia (D−Sunnyside) and David Yassky (D−Brooklyn) said the MTA is rich in real estate.

But they suggested the agency is not eager to make public its holdings in buildings and land.

Gioia and Yassky said the MTA should either sell or lease its Madison Avenue headquarters in midtown Manhattan and reassess use of its building at 370 Jay St. in Brooklyn.

The councilmen said the 347 Madison Ave. headquarters was worth up to $200 million.

“Maintaining an entire midtown Manhattan office building where the average price per square foot is $1,047.40 is a highly inefficient use of taxpayers dollars,” the councilmen said in a statement.

City Comptroller William Thompson called for the state Department of Motor Vehicles to set registration fees based on the weight of the vehicles.

“Once again, the MTA is looking to New Yorkers to cover its budget shortfalls while simultaneously cutting services and delaying key projects,” Thompson said. “Instead of asking New Yorkers to dig deeper into their pockets to ride the subway or bus, we need creative approaches to address our transit needs.”

Thompson proposed a new, additional weight−based transit dedicated assessment of $100 for vehicles weighting 1,200 pounds or less plus 9 cents for every pound of curb weight over 2,300 pounds.

Under such a fee structure, a Toyota Yaris, a light and fuel−efficient vehicle with a curb weight of 2,293 pounds, would cost an additional $100 to register.

A Lincoln Navigator, a heavy and non−fuel efficient SUV, would cost an additional $430 to register.

Thompson said raising the average fee in this way would generate an additional $385 million in annual revenue from city residents and more than $1 billion from the entire metropolitan commuting area.

Thompson said the fee could be phased in over time, allowing residents to take the fee into account when making auto purchase decisions.

Thompson also called for the reinstatement of the commuter tax, which he said could add nearly $763 million annually in fiscal years 2010, 2011 and 2012.

“I applaud Comptroller Thompson for suggesting a smart and effective way to raise funds to keep transit fares down and service and maintenance up,” said Gene Russianoff, attorney for the transit advocacy group Straphangers Campaign.

MTA board member Norman Seabrook proposed what he called a “sin tax” of 30 percent on tobacco and alcohol to help MTA coffers.

“I’m a smoker myself and I don’t want to pay more, but at the end of the day, I’d rather pay more for a pack of cigarettes than have individuals lose their jobs and have service cuts go into effect,” Seabrook said.

Posted 6:40 pm, October 10, 2011
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