Early yesterday morning, as I dressed to head out for the day, I turned on NY1 to catch the weather. The lead story of course was about the MTA and how officials in Albany were floating a plan to institute a $0.50 taxi surcharge as a way of driving money to the transit agency.
This plan has gotten varying degrees to treatment in the press. A report on WNYC made it seem as though it was just another half-baked idea a few State Senators were tossing around. A more recent report on NY1 from last night made it sound as though it were a real proposal under consideration and one the Senate might actually support.
That’s neither here nor there though. My biggest issue with the NY1 report was a statement from Bhairavi Desai, the head of the Taxi Workers Alliance. Now, the TWA is a great organization. It’s a union of 3000 taxi drivers, and Desai has been instrumental in earning better working conditions and higher pay for drivers. She clearly knows nothing about the MTA though.
“I didn’t think the MTA could sink any lower,” she said on TV yesterday, “but I was wrong.”
There you go. That’s a direct quote from one of the city’s leading transit advocates. While the MTA was not behind this plan — agency heads obvious prefer the more robust Ravitch Plan — Desai channeled all of the ignorance from Albany and all of the uninformed New Yorkers going around to bash the MTA for something the authority did not even propose.
Meanwhile, the TWA’s website, while directing people to contact the Senate, still seems to blame this on the MTA. “Don’t let MTA balance their budget failures on our backs!” screams Desai’s site. She continues:
We know the Governor and legislature is out of touch with ordinary New Yorkers who do the daily grind of driving a taxicab for a living—considered the most dangerous job in the country by the Department of Labor—but they are also out of touch with our riders. Many of the men and women we serve everyday are the elderly visiting a doctor or a janitor going home from the night shift or a parent with a baby stroller or a businessperson running to meet their job’s demands.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. First, according to the Department of Labor, mining, logging and slaughterhouse jobs are far and away the most dangerous in the nation. To even mention taxi drivers in that statement is a joke.
Second, those janitors coming from their night shifts — they can’t afford taxis. They need the late night subway service set to be cut. But again, that’s neither here nor there.
Like so many other advocates, like so many politicians, Desai is taking the truth and throwing it out the window. Add another one to the list of people out of touch with New Yorkers and the needs of this city.