Meet Jose Peralta. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because one of the newest State Senators made headlines when he won the special election of fill Hiram Monserrate’s seat earlier this year. He represents the 13th District which consists of East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Corona, three neighborhoods very dependent upon public transportation, but he now joins a growing list of elected officials who won’t fess up to the truth about transit.
Peralta has attracted my ire with an open letter to Jay Walder that the Queens Village Times printed late last week. Peralta attempts to blame the MTA for Albany’s failures and does so in spectacular fashion. Let’s break it down.
I am writing to express my concerns with the MTA’s latest plan to balance its budget on the backs of my constituents. I am not surprised the MTA is facing another crisis…
Peralta starts out on a typically populist note. Someone must teach politicians to blame the MTA for balancing the budget on the back of constituents as part of an Albany orientation package. After all, the authority isn’t about to balance its budget on the backs of State Senators or Assembly representatives. But Peralta ends on an optimistic note here: He isn’t surprised that the MTA is facing another crisis. Could it be that he’s going to admit that Albany stole money from the beleaguered authority?
— given the history of fiscal incompetency, fare hikes and services cuts this agency has imposed on riders. Rather than addressing the real problem, which is the MTA’s long history of mismanagement and overspending, you are once again expecting the public to pay the price for your mistakes.
Nope. Of course not. Ignoring history and the fact that fare hikes come about to either keep up with inflation or keep the subways running, Peralta pinpoints “fiscal incompetency,” a great catch-all that doesn’t catch anything. I wonder why Peralta doesn’t talk about the long history of Albany’s inability to fund transit or create a lockbox for revenues that are supposed to be dedicated to the MTA so that the legislature can’t later remove those to the general fund.
Common sense dictates you cannot cut an entire subway line or slash express service like the latest No. 7 train cut proposal and not expect these measures to negatively affect New Yorkers. You do not cut services to a borough like Queens, where the population is growing.
Of course, Peralta ignores the fact that even though two subway lines were cut, rush hour train service in Queens has remained the same with the Q taking over for the W and the M covering the V’s stops. The MTA doesn’t want to cut services to growing areas of the city, but when facing an $800 million budget gap, what choices does it have? Peralta, though, really gets rolling with the next paragraph.
The MTA is once again facing an astounding budget deficit. The MTA deficit will continue to grow unless the systemic problems that have plagued this agency, including mismanagement, overspending and duplication of services, are finally addressed. And while the state Senate is working to restore public transportation cuts, the MTA has chosen to distort this fact in an effort to conceal its own budgetary failures. This is deceptive and counterproductive in seeking a solution to the growing deficit.
Here, Peralta ignores how Walder himself has engaged in an effort to make every dollar count and to trim the fat. He discounts the millions in internal savings the authority has already identified and the ways in which the new MTA management is streamlining operations while eliminating overspending and duplications of services (such as media relations and communications staffs). Meanwhile, Peralta who, in December while still in the Assembly, voted for the bill that took $143 million in dedicated MTA revenue away from the authority, claims the MTA is using this to “distort the fact” that it has budget problems. In reality, that misappropriation is one of the main drivers behind the need to implement service cuts and the budget deficit. It isn’t deceptive or counterproductive; it’s just honesty.
I don’t expect anything less or anything more from Peralta. He openly extols his opposition to congestion pricing and has shown no knowledge of transit issues. Despite his attempts at phrasing his critique of the MTA as some sort of constituent fight against the Big Bad Wolf, he’s not doing those he purports to represent any favors. Welcome to the club, Senator Peralta.