Home MTA Economics Another day, another know-nothing politician: Peter Vallone, Jr.

Another day, another know-nothing politician: Peter Vallone, Jr.

by Benjamin Kabak

City Council member Peter Vallone, Jr. (D) carries with him a familial legacy of New York politics. His grandfather was a judge in the Queens County Civil Court, and his father was the city’s first City Council speaker and a long-time representative from Astoria. When Senior stepped down in 2001, Junior took up the Vallone City Council seat mantle.

Yesterday, Peter Vallone, Jr. joined the long line of New York politicians who proved they know little to nothing about how the MTA works and how the city’s relationship with the transit agency is structured. For Vallone, ignorance of transit issues is nothing new. He opposed congestion pricing despite representing a transit-dependent district. In Astoria, according to a report from NYU’s Furman Center, 67 percent of all residents rely on public transit, and the 2000 Census found that just 53.2 percent of those who live in Vallone’s district don’t even own cars.

So what does Vallone have to say about the MTA? Lots! And none of it makes much sense. Daniel Edward Rosen of the Daily News had the report:

Vallone assembled a rally outside the Ditmars Blvd. station to slam the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for its proposed cuts, deemed necessary to plug a $400 million budget shortfall. “A lot of people think that the city officials have control over this, but we don’t,” said Vallone (D-Astoria). “What I can do is speak out for my district, and that’s what I will continue to do.”

Protesters held up signs that read “Save Our Subways” while Vallone chided the MTA for granting an 11.3% raise to its workers over three years. “You can’t give raises and then cut services. It’s Business 101, and they failed it,” said Vallone.

Chris O’Leary at On Transport has the comprehensive takedown. First, O’Leary notes that “Vallone failed Labor Relations 101.” As we know, the MTA and TWU went to binding arbitration over the new labor contract, and when the arbitration panel sided with the TWU, the MTA appealed. Ultimately, the agency lost the appeal, but Vallone is content to ignore that reality.

In truth, the MTA would rather not pay the raises and doing so will impact the bottom line over the next three years. But it is simply incorrect to say that the agency is giving out raises. Going to arbitration was a foolish move, but the MTA is legally obligated to follow the arbitration award now that it’s been judicially affirmed.

But the real problem with Vallone’s comments come in his ludicrous claim that city officials “don’t” “have control over this.” O’Leary highlights and disputes this claim by a City Council member: “Vallone seems to miss the fact that the city controls a portion of the funding provided to the MTA. Coincidentally, the city’s $159 million tithe for transit operations has been virtually unchanged since the mid-90s. If the services provided to the MTA are so important to his district, why isn’t Vallone suggesting that the city step up their funding of the MTA? That’s certainly within his control.”

Earlier this week, I took to task Assembly rep Aileen Gunther for her spurious claims about MTA financing and East River Bridge Tolls. Today, I will point my finger at Peter Vallone, Jr. as the next in a long line of politicians distorting or simply ignorant of the truth to make a populist anti-MTA point. It’s far easier to blame someone else for systemic funding problems than it is to find the political will and fiscal capital to improve the system.

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Scott C January 6, 2010 - 5:00 pm

God bless you Ben – it is time someone held these A**clowns politicians accountable for their stupidity. Attacking the MTA is a great way to score cheap political points, and shame on us voters for falling for it every time. Please continue your efforts to set the record straight. I only wish the transit beat reporters and the Straphangers would do the same.

Cap'n Transit January 6, 2010 - 6:16 pm

Thanks, Ben! I did Joe Addabbo and Rory Lancman last week. If we did one a day for every politician who’s made boneheaded statements about the MTA, it would take months.

However, it would be a great public service. I suggest starting with the politicians who are up for re-election this fall, like the State Senate.

Brian Hedden January 6, 2010 - 7:06 pm

The work you do here is important, Ben, but I’m afraid that if you try to call out every politician that is ignorant on transit matters, you may crash the Internet.

Andrew January 6, 2010 - 8:23 pm

How does this affect Astoria? Instead of the W they’ll have the Q. True, they won’t have a one-seat ride to lower Manhattan – but how many people stay on the slow, snaking W rather than transfer to the Lex?

This is a service cut on the Broadway trunk, but Astoria isn’t losing any service.

rhywun January 6, 2010 - 9:06 pm

I took the one-seat ride from Wall Street to Astoria, at least on the way home, when I lived there for 7 years. Why? Because I decided that always getting a seat was more attractive than saving maybe 5 minutes and dealing with the ridiculous crush at 59th & Lex.

Now I live in Bay Ridge and the sight of an even more crowded R between the financial district and 36th Street is going to be quite amusing without the M around any more. Glad I don’t live on that stretch.

Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines January 7, 2010 - 8:50 am

[…] Ave Sagas and On Transport Smack Down Peter Vallone's Lazy […]

Anonymous January 7, 2010 - 5:12 pm

Get Your Facts Straight – Vallone has made public statements saying that the MTA should never have abdicated its responsibility to protect its ridership and sent negotiations to an arbitrator and that it’s not an arbitrator’s job to control spending and protect riders from cuts, its the job of the MTA. He clearly understands that going to an arbitrator was a decision made by the MTA and they are responsible for the outcome. You and O’leary are the ones who failed labor 101, and common sense 101, by relying on a sound bite taken by a newspaper instead of doing your own research. As for city funding, why should the city taxpayers pay even more when we already pay 80% of commuter fees but only get 60% back from Albany? Funding doesn’t equal control, only Albany has that.

Chris January 7, 2010 - 6:34 pm

We took a sound bite out of the newspaper? Funny, that newspaper quote sounds exactly like this quote on Vallone’s web site:

“For the MTA to grant generous raises while decimating services is completely irresponsible and inexcusable.”

I don’t know how that quote can possibly be misinterpreted as anything other than an accusation that the MTA willingly granted raises to employees. That’s a flat-out lie and it was the entire basis for Vallone’s phony protest.

Again, he’s afraid to attack organized labor because it’s where he gets his endorsements and campaign contributions. If your argument is that it’s the MTA’s fault for entering arbitration, why aren’t you also criticizing the TWU bosses for asking for such outrageous raises during a time when the MTA had a $1.2 billion deficit? Oh, right. Because Unions are perfect and never selfish and never do anything wrong. You didn’t take Labor 101, you took Labor Collusion 101.

Chris January 7, 2010 - 7:00 pm

The more I read Vallone’s public statements about arbitration (all of which, by the way, have come after the budget cuts were announced – never during the actual arbitration process), the more I’m convinced that he’s an attack dog for the TWU.

He said in a letter to Jay Walder that “you lost in arbitration and you lost once again on appeal, and the fault is yours, no one else’s. As a result, school children and my constituents are being forced to pay for your agency’s incompetence.”

That’s right… the agency’s incompetence. Not the union’s selfishness. Based on his statements, he clearly doesn’t think these workers should be granted an 11.3% raise over three years in this economy, but the TWU was asking for 4% annual raises during negotiations prior to arbitration.

This is what baffles me: how does Vallone think that the result of MTA/TWU negotiations would have been any better than the arbitrator’s, especially given the TWU’s willingness to strike at the expiration of the previous contract?

Steven Higashide January 8, 2010 - 10:23 am

Ben, these are very valuable posts. I would encourage you to spread the message even wider by occasionally writing letters for publication in the newspapers where these officials are quoted. It would be a great way to disseminate your fact-checking efforts to the many folks who still read the Daily News, Post, etc. on the subway instead of online.

Benjamin Kabak January 18, 2010 - 1:34 am

You’re right, Steven. I should try to get some letters published concerning the fact-checking. I don’t think about that, but it’s a great idea.

Cap'n Transit January 12, 2010 - 2:03 am

Okay, I took care of Onorato, Gianaris and Frei-Pearson.

Felix Ortiz the latest in a long line of ingorant New York reps :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog February 22, 2010 - 4:41 pm

[…] he joins a long list of elected representatives — including current city comptroller John Liu, Peter Vallone and Aileen Gunther — who bring up trumped up charges as a way to eschew responsibility over the […]

For the V and the W, a final day :: Second Ave. Sagas June 25, 2010 - 9:10 am

[…] transit funding. I’m surprised to see Vallone lend his name and face to this campaign as he hasn’t been very transit-friendly. Later in the day at 8:15 p.m., Transportation Alternatives will rally in Astoria for better […]


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