R211 subway car prototype © MTA/Flickr
The board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Wednesday delayed a vote on construction contracts to renovate two stations in the Bronx and six in Manhattan after MTA members, appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, objected. The contracts fall under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $1 billion plan to outfit 33 subway stations with countdown clocks, LED lighting, USB ports and other amenities. The board’s city representatives questioned why so much money was being put towards unnecessary, cosmetic improvements at stations that are in decent condition already, instead of funding signal and track repairs. As the New York Times reported, the decision to postpone the vote has ramped up the public dispute between de Blasio and Cuomo over MTA funding.
The MTA was meant to vote on three contract packages aimed at station improvements, totaling $200 million. According to amNY, the first included the 23rd Street and 57th Street stations along the Sixth Avenue line, the 28th Street station on the Lexington Avenue line and the 34th Street-Penn Station along Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Another included the 145th Street station on the Lexington Avenue line and the Bronx stations at 174th-175th and 167th Streets.
City officials say they have had no input on the selection of stations chosen by the governor. At Wednesday’s board meeting, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Transportation, Polly Trottenberg, brought a list comparing the stations the city said needed improvements with the list of 33 stations selected by the governor. Just three of them overlapped.
Last week, Cuomo unveiled his proposed FY 2019 budget, which laid out ways to force the city to contribute more funding to the MTA. The budget calls on City Hall to pay half of the authority’s $836 million emergency action plan, something de Blasio has refused to do. Another proposal calls for the MTA to create districts in the city to receive the real estate tax receipts from those special areas to pay for major projects. State lawmakers will negotiate the budget until the April 1 deadline.
According to First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan, New York City contributes roughly 70 percent of the MTA’s $16 billion operating budget. During a call with reporters, Fuleihan said, “As to your question about why wouldn’t New York City contribute–we contribute. We contribute a significant amount.” In 2015, the city also provided $2.5 billion to the state’s five-year capital plan.
Ahead of the board meeting, in an open letter, MTA Chair Joe Lhota, wrote: “The city claims no financial responsibility for the subway system that it owns and polices and is the lifeblood of the city’s economy. The mayor’s answer is simple–and he should just say it–he doesn’t want to fund the subways and help riders. So be it.”
The board decided to postpone the vote on the station improvements until February after further research.
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