Elliot Sander poses with some of the subway system’s aging infrastructure. He hopes for the funds to start some much-needed system modernization. (Photo courtesy of Crain’s.)
The venerable business journal Crain’s hosts regular breakfasts featuring major city players. Yesterday, MTA CEO and Executive Director Elliot “Lee” Sander took the stage to give his “Save the MTA” speech. Sander explained what the MTA plans to do with federal stimulus funding but reiterated the need for Albany to fund the authority’s operating budget.
Daniel Massey from Crain’s New York Business Journal was on hand to report on the talk:
The agency plans to reduce overhead and save $30 million to $40 million by consolidating its back-office administrative offices from seven locations to one, at 370 Jay St., in Brooklyn. And it expects to rake in $1.5 billion to $3 billion from the federal government’s stimulus package. The MTA would use that money to begin the next phase in rehabilitation of the Atlantic Avenue viaduct, which carries Long Island Railroad passengers between Jamaica and downtown Brooklyn; rehabilitate subway stations; overhaul shops and yards; and bolster mega-projects like the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access, which would connect LIRR trains to Grand Central Terminal.
But those savings and additional funds won’t mean much if the state does not adopt the Ravitch Commission’s plan, which would boost MTA coffers by putting tolls on East River bridges and adding a regional business tax that would amount to 33 cents on every $100 of payroll, Mr. Sander said. Administration represents only 7% of the MTA budget, and the federal dollars would be only about 5% to 10% of the agency’s capital needs. “While the key elements of the plan…are painful without question, the alternative of failing to adequately invest in the MTA is far worse: much higher fares and less service, both of which are unacceptable,” he said…
Mr. Sander said Gov. David Paterson will soon introduce a bill containing the commission’s recommendations, and that it needs to pass before March. He said he thought the plan was fair in its current form and rejected a proposal from some New York City elected officials that the payroll tax be increased further instead of tolling the bridges.
Sander ended the speech with a warning directed at the state legislature. He has long noted that New York has been challenged as one of the world’s leading cities by transit expansion in China and Europe. He reiterated that claim yesterday. “Other than an increase in crime, I can’t think of anything that will start the death knell for New York,” he said.
For the most part, Sander’s speech isn’t a new one. While he did offer a dire update on the Hudson Yards project — and we’ll touch on that later — he has continued to press for the Ravitch Committee recommendations even as the public piles on during the fare hike/service cuts hearings. As the head of the MTA, he’s doing all he can to stave off the cuts, and for that, he deserves support. Hopefully, Albany will heed his calls.