Marty Golden, Republican, is, according to his website, “Brooklyn’s voice in Albany.” The four-term State Senator hails from District 22, an oddly-shaped area that includes transit-rich neighborhoods such as Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Ocean Parkway along side car-heavy neighborhoods such as Gerritsen Bay and the area surrounding Marine Park. Who his constituents are and what they need remain a mystery to Senator Golden.
To whit, a call for a Town Hall on the MTA. With many of his constituents set to lose transit service, Senator Golden’s office has announced a meeting on the service cuts. “The MTA continues to move forward to adopt the doomsday budget that will severely impact bus service in our community,” John Quaglione, the Senator’s press secretary and district manager, said earlier this week. “We are not going to let the MTA come into our neighborhood and greatly disrupt our transportation system. We can not afford it and the residents and commuters deserve better.”
Now, Brooklyn and, in particular, Golden’s district are in for some harsh cuts. Bay Ridge is losing numerous bus routes and seeing service along others reduced. The M train will no longer go to Bay Parkway in Bensonhurst after June 27, and
midday and weekend service on every subway line that passes through Golden’s area will be scaled. He should be outraged. But a Town Hall? Really? That’s the best one of our State Senators can do?
Over the last few years, Golden, as a loyal member of the do-nothing opposition minority party in the Senate, has, well, done nothing. He did nothing to support the Ravitch plan and did nothing to support congestion pricing. Now, he wants to do more of nothing without offering a solution to the MTA’s financial woes. The Town Hall meeting might turn out some disgruntled voters, and it might win Golden some political points in a district he won unopposed in 2006. It won’t solve the problem.
Of course, Golden’s position is an untenable one for obvious reasons. First, he’s a member of the state GOP, and the Republicans in the New York State Senate have done nothing to assist the MTA. It is, they reason, the majority party’s problem, and even though thousands of Golden’s constituents need their subways and buses, he hasn’t helped with a solution. Second, he represents some very vocal and adamant drivers. Even though their numbers are but a slim fraction of those who ride the subway, these drivers near Marine Park have been the most outspoken congestion pricing opponents. Golden wouldn’t dare turn his back on those with political clout who needs their autos. That solution is staring him in the face, but he won’t embrace it.
Golden is but one of many State Senators fishing in the dark. Earlier this week, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli agreed to a forensic audit of the MTA, and Assembly representatives were ecstatic. Fred Thiele, an Independent representative from Suffolk County who is an outspoken critic of the payroll tax, had this to say:
“I want to take this opportunity to thank the Comptroller for his hard work and the dedication of him and his staff as they work to ensure that state taxpayer money is spent in accordance with the law. As a strong opponent of the MTA Payroll Tax and the ‘bailout’ legislation enacted by the Legislature last year (I voted against the proposal), I want to make sure these monies are spent and collected properly; especially given that MTA estimates for the Payroll Tax revenues have been grossly underestimated. The financial woes of the MTA have been well documented only recently and I pledge to continue to work with my Assembly colleagues and Comptroller DiNapoli on this issue.”
Here, Thiele is, simply put, ignoring reality. The MTA’s estimates haven’t been “grossly underestimated”; rather, the numbers supplied to the MTA by the state’s own accounting and taxation department have been grossly understated. If he were to stop and examine the situation, he would find fault resting not entirely with the MTA but in Albany too. That would, however, require an Assembly representative to take far too much responsibility for the way the state is run.
In the end, DiNapoli would conduct his audit, and we know what he’ll find. The MTA isn’t a very lean organization and could be better run. But he’ll also find honest accounting and a budget hole of $751 million this year. What then, I wonder, will the Marty Goldens and Fred Thieles of the state do? When the truth comes about an MTA teetering on the edge of fiscal ruin, who will the grandstanding politicians blame next? It certainly won’t be themselves.