Home Asides Meet the Assembly’s new Authorities Oversight boss

Meet the Assembly’s new Authorities Oversight boss

by Benjamin Kabak

For much of the past decade, Richard Brodsky had been in charge of a legislative check on the MTA. As head of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, the Westchester Democrat had oversight power over the MTA and made sure to use his bully pulpit to push the authority toward improvement. He was, however, anti-congestion pricing, and while his good government initiatives should be applauded, he didn’t have a great grip on the financial picture. He stepped down to run an unsuccessful campaign for Attorney General, and James Brennan, a 27-year committee vet from Brooklyn, took his place.

This week, The Bond Buyer sat down for an interview with Brennan, and he talked about his oversight philosophy. So far, he’s saying all the right things when it comes to transit. “I’m a devoted supporter of mass transit because it’s the backbone of the metropolitan area,” he said. “The MTA’s got major capital budget shortfalls going forward which we’re probably not going to deal with right now.”

Recognizing that the MTA’s current financial model which relies heavily on real estate tax revenue cannot support something as necessary as the subways, Brennan is willing to look outside of the box. In fact, he was a congestion pricing supporter a few years back but didn’t mention specifics in the interview. “Real estate transactions have proven to be too volatile a financing source for them and they’re going to need something going forward that’s more stable,” he said. Brennan certainly does, as one member of the Citizens Budget Commission said have “big shoes to fill,” but for now, it sounds as though he’s up to the task. That’s welcome news indeed from Albany.

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Larry Littlefield March 3, 2011 - 1:30 pm

Brennan is an opponent of any tolls.

He has voted in favor of every debt increase for the MTA under its capital plans.

He is also in favor of a 20/50 pension for TWU members. He says it would cost nothing for MTA employees to work five fewer years and spend five more years in retirement, and if turns out not to cost nothing, then the MTA is to blame.

He is in favor of state funding cuts for the MTA, but opposed to the closing of extra booths, with the difference presumably to be bridge by more borrowing — or some unspecified miracle.

He can say whatever he wants, but that’s the record, and I don’t expect it to change. Of course it is the same record as every other member of the state legislature, but that’s the point.

Basically, the collapse of the transit system would not be his problem.

R. Graham March 3, 2011 - 1:35 pm

Source of this information? Don’t get me wrong I’m not on the attack but I would love to see what you’re seeing as I don’t know the guy.

Larry Littlefield March 3, 2011 - 1:35 pm

Here is the reality.


Brooklyn Dems Protest Proposed East River Tolls

By Neil S. Friedman
Pictured (front-left to right): Assembly members Adele Cohen and Joseph Lentol, Markowitz (at podium) and Assembly Member Peter Abbate. Back row (l. to r.): Councilman David Weprin, Assemblyman Roger Green, Councilman Simcha Felder and Assemblyman Jim Brennan. Kathryn Kirk

Brennan is also in favor an increased payroll tax, because it hits private sector workers — from the upper middle class to the poor — but does not affect government workers — because contracts prevent governments from passing on the cost in lower wage, does not affect retirement income, and does not affect the non-wage income of the rich. Thus it is a tax on the powerless.

Larry Littlefield March 3, 2011 - 2:28 pm

“Source of this information? Don’t get me wrong I’m not on the attack but I would love to see what you’re seeing as I don’t know the guy.”

Tolls are above. The MTA Capital plans and 20/50 pension plans passed without a “no” vote (the latter was vetoed by the Governor, setting off a strike) as did the budgets with the diversion of dedicated funding from the MTA. Everything up there passes without a no vote.

Brennan held a public meeting in my neighborhood to decry the elimination of a little used part time station booth at the north end of the station. At the time I knew the MTA was going broke.

This and similar future selling infuriated me so much I got a minor party to help me get on the ballot and run against the guy in 2004 (not him personally — all of them).

Welcome to the future. They can say what they want to say now. Mostly what they are saying to the losers is that the other guy should be blamed.

Benjamin Kabak March 3, 2011 - 3:11 pm

I didn’t know about this. Thanks for the info, Larry. I’ll have to dig into the materials. Do you know why he seemingly supported congestion pricing but not East River tolls?


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