Photo via Wikimedia
Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed earlier this month to fund half of the MTA’s $836 million emergency rescue plan for the subway, leading many to believe the feud between the mayor and Gov. Andrew Cuomo about the funding had simmered. But on Wednesday, de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson penned a joint letter to MTA chair, Joe Lhota, laying out terms of the funding agreement, with plenty of subtle insults to the MTA included. While the city’s commitment of $418 million came with a “lock box” arrangement, to ensure the money goes to repairs and nothing else, the mayor and speaker are calling on Lhota and the MTA for even further transparency, better measurements of progress and frequent briefings about the plan.
“Failure is not an option and we firmly believe that a more transparent process can lead to better, more effective implementation,” the two electeds wrote. “We are eager for everyone to put politics aside and support the important work of improving the commutes of millions of New Yorkers.”
De Blasio and Johnson write that accountability is important in order for city taxpayers to know “they are getting a good return on their investment.” The two officials cite the East Side Access Project and the Enhanced Station Initiative as two projects overseen by the MTA that have run into funding issues and major delays.
East Side Access was originally estimated to cost $4.3 billion and wrap up in 2009, but now instead will require a total of $11 billion and finish in 2022. The Enhanced Station Initiative, which started with a budget of $936 million for renovations at 33 stations, will now cost less, at $846 million, but only reach 20 stations.
The letter contains a series of requests by the city. The mayor and speaker are asking for an increase in transparency with regular briefings, a midcourse review nine months into the plan and a better way for the MTA to measure progress, which the city suggests looking at the time passengers spend waiting at stations or on trains.
De Blasio and Johnson also believe the MTA should move onto more critical repair work like signal and track repair, rather than cosmetic upgrades like paint and retiling. They also call for a review of operations like signal timers.
The MTA responded to the joint letter with confusion.
“We are puzzled by the letter received today as everything it outlined was mandated in the law passed by the legislature in this year’s budget,” Jon Weinstein, MTA communications director, said in a statement. “After the city’s almost year-long refusal to contribute funding was finally resolved by the state legislature’s mandate earlier this month, we can now finally take all of the aggressive steps outlined.”
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