Richard Ravitch has heard the critics over the last few days, and he doesn’t like it. Responding to those who are skeptical of his bailout plan, Ravitch took a hardline position in an interview with the Daily News.
“Obviously, I have to assume they must know of some secret fairy godmother who has piles of money she is going to send and solve the problem,” Ravitch said. “Otherwise, they’d better damn well explain how the system is going to be paid.”
For the most part, these critics are pushing the standard line. As City Comptroller Bill Thomson has argued, the tolls will supposedly penalize those who don’t have access to the buses and subways. Never mind that every toll will be along a route that has ample bus and subway service. Never mind that people who can’t afford these tolls generally can’t afford a car in New York City either. Tolling roads in New York — actually charging people for the city services they use — has become some political taboo. No wonder Ravitch is a bit feisty.
But of course there are other concerns beyond obstructionist politicians. William Neuman highlights some of the legal challenges facing implementation of the Ravitch proposals. No one seems to know quite yet who has the ability to transfer control of the bridges from the city to the MTA or how the city could go about doing so.
“Our conclusion is that the city would not be permitted to transfer the bridges to the M.T.A. without a new state law,” Kate O’Brien Ahlers, the communications director for the city’s Law Department, said in a written statement on Friday.
City officials said that under state law, the bridges were similar to streets and parks, which are inalienable properties of the city. It is a status that requires state legislative action if they are to be sold, leased or otherwise removed from city control.
There is a law that allows the city to transfer property to the authority if it is to be used for transit purposes, such as land for a subway station. But the city officials said they did not believe that would apply to the bridges.
In reality, this is more of a political issue than it is a legal issue. If the impetus is there, city and state officials will work to affect the transfer. But as Neuman explores, the political impetus just isn’t there.
At some point, we’ll have to pay. Someone will have to shoulder the costs of running a transit system. It could be all of us; it could be some of us. Sadly, this decision will wind up in the hands of New York’s risk-averse politicians.