Home MTA Absurdity Millionaries on MTA Board fight for their perks

Millionaries on MTA Board fight for their perks

by Benjamin Kabak

During E-ZPass-gate three weeks ago, shortly before seeing their free perks disappear, the ever-generous MTA Board vowed to fight to the death for their E-ZPasses and the various sundry perks these men and women, some of the richest in the city, enjoy.

Well, it’s good to see that the Board is staying true to its word, for once. They won’t give us our promised service upgrades, but they will battle tooth and nail for some free rides. Now, while I’d usually just post this story as an aside, a few choice quotes were too good to ignore.

In The Times today, William Neuman reports that the MTA Board is divided over the perks issue. The responsible board members want to eliminate the perks; the usually self-important folks want to keep them around. The pro-perks faction is led by David S. Mack, a very rich man, and the MTA’s Vice Chair and chair of a few Long Island-focused committees.

And what did Mr. Mack have to say? Take a look:

Mr. Mack said that it was important for board members to be familiar with the transportation system they oversaw and that free travel passes encouraged that. In their trips through the system, board members frequently notice problems that can be corrected swiftly with a phone call, he said.

“We’re invaluable,” Mr. Mack said…“If you saw something and called it in, it goes right there,” he added, as he put his foot on top of a wastebasket. “When the normal public calls it in, you know what happens with the bureaucracy, they don’t get the response that a board member would get.”

Now, that sounds positively altruistic from Mack. He rides the trains! He sees something, says something and results happen. You would think, then, that Mr. Mack is a regular rider on his trains. Not quite, reports Neuman:

But Mr. Mack, a Long Island resident who says he typically rides the railroad 5 to 10 times a year, said that if he had to pay, he might change his habits.

“Why should I ride and inconvenience myself when I can ride in a car?” he said.

No, you’re not reading this incorrectly. David S. Mack, a man so rich that he has a sports complex at Hofstra with his name on it, is complaining about having to pay to ride the rails five to ten times a year. A YEAR! I ride the subways ten times in a normal four-day period. Cry me a river, David.

With a few anonymous board members noting that no one on the board actually needs those free passes, I have to wonder just how indicative Mack is of the general state of the MTA Board. I know that Dale Hemmerdinger and Elliot Sander know what they’re doing, but does anyone else? Or is the Board populated with people as out of touch with the transportation network and the riding habits of the people who rely on it day in and day out as Mack is? No wonder the MTA is a huge a financial bind right now.

Update 12:10 p.m.: Eric Gioia — yes, that Eric Gioia — has released a statement about this debacle:

“Vice Chairman Mack should either clarify his statement or resign. With sentiment like that it is no wonder that the MTA is in such dire straits. His comments represent an absolute disdain for the very entity which serves millions of hardworking New Yorker every day who don’t have a choice to just ‘take their car.’ This sense of entitlement and contemptuous thinking is what leads New Yorkers to rightly ask who is on their side at MTA headquarters.”

Gioia is spot-on right in this matter. At least someone is trying to hold this MTA Board accountable.

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Christine June 19, 2008 - 12:06 pm

This is unbelievable. He should be embarrassed. But I’m pretty convinced he’s clueless and out of touch to the point that any negative publicity in this regard will bounce off him like water on teflon. Unrelated, but related, this is one of the reasons I am in favor of means testing for things such as social security benefits.

Marc Shepherd June 19, 2008 - 12:13 pm

He’s channeling Leona Helmsley.

brooklyn gal June 19, 2008 - 12:43 pm

This is appalling, but unfortunately not shocking. These freeloaders need to think about the city’s best interests, or be fired.

The shocking bit, in my opinion, is that they would outright admit how little they pay attention to the concerns of every-day riders. “If you saw something and called it in, it goes right there,” he added, as he put his foot on top of a wastebasket.” I guess I should applaud the honesty, but I can’t get past the fact he’s obviously aware of a problematic breakdown in communication that he has no intention to fix- and that doesn’t appear to bother him one bit.

ScottE June 19, 2008 - 2:43 pm

I guess it’s time to update those posters plastered all over the trains and buses:

Last Year 1,944New Yorkers SawSomething AndSaid Something.Apparently, TheyWasted their Time

MikeG June 19, 2008 - 3:01 pm

We should all follow Mr. Mack’s advice and avoid paying for transit! Let’s all start jumping the turnstilles and holding the emergency exits for all!!!

And speaking of inconvenience, why don’t we all buy cars and instead of dealing with the “inconvenience” of using transit, clog up the roads he drives on. Let’s see how well that would work out.

This guy has no buisness being on the MTA board, or even living in New York. I’m sure there’s a perfect place for him in LA.

MikeG June 19, 2008 - 3:07 pm

Wow, I read the rest of the article. Wow-

“Similarly, he said, without free E-ZPasses, some board members might use the city’s free bridges and avoid the authority’s tolled bridges and tunnels.

He said that he kept the telephone numbers of the managers of the authority’s bridges and tunnels in his car and that if he saw a problem, he called them from the road. He said he had instructed bridge managers to open an additional toll lane if there were long lines…

An inventory in May showed that Mr. Mack, 66, had six free E-ZPass tags, but he said on Wednesday that he now uses regular tags of the paid variety.”

Is this guy for real!?!? He’d use the “free” bridges instead of the “inconvenience” of forking over $4.15. Wow

Mr. Mack did not say whether he believed that former board members should be allowed to keep their passes.

Boris June 19, 2008 - 9:34 pm

I once saw the board of the company I work for, one of the larger American corporations. They came to visit our location after a merger. I think every one of the women on it had plastic surgery. But it is appropriate for a for-profit corporation to have rich people on its board, because they know something about money and help the company make more of it. But the point of the MTA, as only a few of the MTA board members understand, apparently, is not to make money, but to provide transit services. This is the problem here.

Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog » Blog Archive » Mack attacked over MTA Board perks and gives in June 20, 2008 - 1:30 am

[…] started out with a ridiculous and clueless comment about the potential end of the MTA Board perks; Mack, you see, decided he, an MTA Board member […]


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