For those of you who like to unplug during the weekend, you may have missed New York City’s biggest Saturday news drop in years. After months of unnecessarily feuding over MTA financing, the governor and mayor agreed on a capital funding split that puts the city on the hook for $2.5 billion and presents a clear win for Andrew Cuomo. I’ll have more on how this deal may affect certain projects. Today, we look at the politics involved.
In The Times Michael Grynbaum explores how this deal won’t stop the political fighting between Cuomo and Bill de Blasio. Two car guys haven’t exactly had their “come to Jesus” moment with regards to support for transit. The Journal meanwhile delved into the ins and outs of the deal. Here’s Josh Dawsey and Andrew Tangel:
According to people familiar with the matter, the agreement that the city will commit $2.5 billion for major repair and expansion projects was largely reached because neither side saw a continuing fight as politically advantageous—and recognized the downsides of battling over funding while the city’s subways were increasingly packed and deteriorating…
For at least a week Mr. de Blasio and his aides wanted to end the fight but also didn’t want to be seen as capitulating to the governor’s demands, people familiar with the matter said. Even as the governor and the mayor quarreled with each other in public, top aides to the mayor discussed how much to offer Albany and called business leaders, advocates and others to gain support. They finally decided to offer $2.5 billion to the state Wednesday night—hoping to strike a deal soon thereafter—and one was essentially completed by late Friday…
Still, the deal over MTA funding presented unanswered questions. Some observers wondered how specifically the state and city would come up with the money. Others wondered how the MTA could reduce costs from its five-year plan without also cutting back on the scope of the projects. Much of the work involves major repairs to keep the system running safely or improvements to bring equipment such as signals and switches up to modern standards.
The authority is expected in coming days to weigh how it might potentially alter some projects’ timing without scaling them back, according to a person familiar with the matter. The MTA’s board is expected to vote on a revised plan later this month. There are also questions about how much sway the city gained from the deal over MTA projects within the five boroughs. Mr. de Blasio said Saturday that the agreement would give riders and taxpayers a stronger voice.
If you read between the lines — or if you read the lines — of Tangel and Dawsey’s report, the city thinks it got something when in reality, it got nothing. Cuomo promised to follow a toothless law, and he’s unlikely to sweep up much, if any, from the MTA anyway considering how politically loaded such a move has become. It’s also not worth the headache over $20-$30 million every year when $8.3 billion is on the table.
Meanwhile, what exactly did the city get? The mix of projects is unlikely to change, and if, say, the MetroCard replacement effort or B division countdown clocks continue to lag, the MTA can point to the $700 million gap between the state’s request and the city’s promise as the cause. It’s ugly all around.
Ultimately, the two car guys remain what they were, but the MTA gets its money. The fighting was unnecessary and led to no new reforms on the spending side that are badly needed. What happens in five years is, as de Blasio and Cuomo figure, someone else’s problem.