State Sen. Gianaris (D-Astoria) has backed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to issue a state of emergency for the MTA, suspending certain bureaucratic processes to expedite upgrades and overhauls as “the Summer of Hell” begins at Penn Station and the city’s transit system reels from delayed maintenance.
“The MTA crisis was years in the making due to neglect and underfunding by government leaders,” Gianaris said about Cuomo’s June 29 announcement. He called it “an encouraging first step, but significant questions remain regarding the source of this new capital funding and the continuing budget hole of several billions dollars beyond the amount announced today.”
Cuomo pledged to spend $1 billion to upgrade the MTA’s vast subway system, plagued by signal problems, long delays, overcrowding and breakdowns.
Gianaris, who is the Senate minority leader, had hoped Albany would take action to find more resources to finance the MTA improvements during last week’s extraordinary session, but it did not happen.
Nevertheless, he vowed: “I will continue to fight for the millions of New Yorkers who suffer every day at the hands of the MTA.”
On July 10 a major repair effort gets underway to update the tracks in Penn Station, the site of several recent derailments and accidents that have delayed thousands of Long Island Rail Road commuters and their New Jersey counterparts. Amtrak is in charge of maintaining the station and the tracks.
The governor’s announcement came following an A train derailment in Harlem that left dozens injured on June 27. He is head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the subways, railroads, bridges and tunnels.
Melissa Orlando, executive director of Access Queens, a transit advocacy group, criticized Cuomo for the current state of city transit and was skeptical an extra $1 billion in capital funds would make a significant difference.
“It’s disingenuous for him to now be decrying it because the majority of the time he’s in office he has been underfunding the system. He’s had direct responsibility for the system getting to the point it’s at now,” said Orlando , who blamed Cuomo for directing a massive amount of funds toward bridges, tunnels and roads.
“The MTA needs better cost controls, better oversight and the governor’s responsible for that, too.”
Cuomo spoke at the Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center, where he drew attention to the state contest that will award $1 million for an idea to fix the citywide transit woes from anywhere in the world.
The governor will be challenging newly reappointed MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota to reorganize the agency as well as pouring the additional $1 billion into the MTA’s capital funds.
“The current state of decline is wholly unacceptable,” Cuomo said. “We’re going to do something and we’re going to do something about it now. Today, I am asking Joe Lhota to do a reorganization plan for the MTA in 30 days. Start with a blank piece of paper. There are no givens, there are no sacred cows. Design an organization that can perform the function rather than the organization that exists today, which is a longstanding bureaucracy that has evolved over time.”
Cuomo offered a second challenge to Lhota.
“We should have a review of the capital plan,” Cuomo continued. “The cars, the physical equipement. I would ask Mr. Lhota to get that done in 60 days. Very simple, what do we need, how do we get it, how much does it cost, and how do we expedite the entire process?”
Cuomo said he would sign the executive order on the MTA immediately to speed up some of the government procedures, such as the transit agency’s procurement process. Cuomo will ask either the state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman or Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to appoint a team to oversee the effort to expedite these objectives.
“It should no longer be a torture exercise to do business with the MTA,” Cuomo said.
Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin issued a statement of approval for Cuomo’s announcement and claimed the governor is at last taking responsibility for recent troubles.
“For months, frustrated subway riders have been trying to get the governor’s attention,” Raskin said. “Now Gov. Cuomo has finally taken responsibility for fixing a broken system, and riders will appreciate his recognition that transit is in a state of emergency. The governor is right that a solution to the transit crisis will require focused leadership and an infusion of new funds. Now, the governor will have to add details to his statement. A billion dollars is a start, but where will it come from, and is it new money? When and where will the state find the other billions that are needed to truly address the problem? How does a state of emergency fit into a comprehensive plan to fix public transit?”
He added, “Most importantly, when will riders begin to see improvements in their day-to-day commutes?”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall
©2017 Community News Group
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not TimesLedger.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to TimesLedger.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.