I’ve tried not to write too much about the political infighting between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio over the MTA’s capital plan. As I’ve said in the past, it’s generally just embarrassing for both New York City and New York State. Instead of supporting the city’s most important transportation asset, our two top elected officials have spent most of 2015 yelling at each other through media statements or various proxies and allies and have done nothing to bridge a spending gap that threatens the tenuous reliability of our subway service. As October dawns, nothing has changed.
Here’s the latest: de Blasio hasn’t ponied up more city money because (a) he doesn’t have much control over the MTA and (b) he’s concerned about Cuomo’s ability to reallocate MTA money. I’m less sympathetic to the control argument as de Blasio could ensure that his board appointees act as a solitary voting block, but he has a point about Cuomo’s raiding of the MTA. The governor has reallocated around $270 million for the MTA, and city contributions are often moved around to bolster the commuter railroads rather than NYC Transit’s assets.
Still, according to the Daily News, de Blasio may be willing to contribute an additional $1 billion to the MTA’s capital plan. The News reports that the money would come with “strings attached,” but it’s not clear what those strings are. Perhaps the city would mandate the dollars go toward Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway or a Utica Ave. extension. It remains to be seen how the city will find the dollars as the News mentions nothing more than a “revenue-generating scheme.” Could that be a nod to the controversial Move New York plan?
Meanwhile, Cuomo, who hasn’t yet issued one word of explanation as to where the $8.3 billion the state plans to contribute will come from, claims no funding deal is near. This is, to put it mildly, a problem. De Blasio says he wants to see “a real vision for what the state’s commitment will be to the MTA going forward” before adding more dollars, and Cuomo says “If the city wants more control, let them pay $8 billion. Then we’ll talk about more control.” This isn’t politics or leadership; it’s petty bickering.
If the two sides can’t resolve their dispute before the end of the year, the MTA is going to have to start scaling back work because it won’t have access to funding sources to pay contractors. Without an approved capital plan, the agency can spend only on contracts from previous plans. Anything new will have to wait, and work on maintenance and repair efforts will begin to slow down. That leaves our state and city leaders with less than three months to hammer out a plan. They owe it their constituents to figure this one out. It shouldn’t be this hard.