Millman Issues Harsh Testimony to MTA

November 3, 2010
Brooklyn – Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman testified at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) public hearing. The hearing, held at the Brooklyn Museum, was the last in a series of hearings the MTA is held throughout the City to address the possibility of fare increases. Assemblywoman Millman’s testimony follows:

Testimony Presented to:
Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Submitted By:
Joan L. Millman
Member of Assembly, 52nd Assembly District

Re: Proposed Fare Increase

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the MTA’s proposed fare increases. As the Assemblymember for the 52nd District, I represent Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, the Columbia Waterfront District, DUMBO, Vinegar Hill and Park Slope.

Here we are again to call on the MTA to stop balancing its books on the backs of hard-working New Yorkers. I, for one, am not optimistic that we will be successful in stopping these fare increases. It appears to be much easier for the MTA to cut services and raise fares than to be fiscally responsible. For instance, raising the unlimited monthly MetroCard from $89 to $104 per month cannot be justified given how poorly the MTA manages its own finances.

While others just complain, I have repeatedly offered solutions for the MTA that have been ignored. I introduced Assembly Bill 10345 which would transfer stimulus funds from the MTA’s capital budget to its operating budget. This measure would give the MTA sufficient funding to avoid many service cuts as well as layoffs. The federal government has agreed to this plan, but is waiting for a go-ahead from the MTA. I also introduced Assembly Bill 3957, which would allow New York City to create and implement a residential permit parking system. The funds generated by the passage of this legislation would be spent solely on improving mass transit in our City.

Before there are any more fare increases or service cuts, the MTA needs to get its financial house in order.

New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli recently issued a report which criticized the MTA for being more focused on service cuts and fare increases than in reducing wasteful spending. The Comptroller’s report highlighted several areas, including unmanaged overtime spending, poor handling of real estate holdings and excessive use of external consultant contracts, where the MTA could save hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Who runs a business this poorly?

In December of 2007, the MTA gave away $50 million in holiday and weekend discounts for riders. The MTA opted for a short-term, fiscally imprudent public relations scheme instead of saving that money to offset future budget shortfalls. They also have unused buildings that could have be sold or rented to generate much needed revenue. 370 Jay Street is a perfect example of a building which has been empty for years. What is the MTA doing with 370 Jay Street? Storing tokens?

In addition, during a recent up-zoning of Brooklyn’s 4th Avenue corridor, the MTA neglected to negotiate any funding or concessions from developers to accommodate the increased ridership that resulted from the large, new developments in this neighborhood. These stations are dangerously overcrowded during rush hour and there are no plans or funding to rectify this problem.

Unfortunately, the MTA’s financial mismanagement does not stop here. I am still shocked that the MTA sold the Atlantic Yards property for less than half its own appraised value of over $200 million. What did the MTA get in return for this sweetheart deal? Not enough! The MTA ought to be acting in the best interests of the public, not subsidizing deep-pocketed developers.

As someone who voted against the repeal of the commuter tax, I know we must look at every funding option. Suburbanites who work in New York City benefit from our transit system and more than likely use the heavily-subsidized commuter rail lines. Those subsidies come at the expense of hardworking New Yorkers. The MTA has been shortchanging New Yorkers to benefit the suburban commuter rail lines for far too long.

I hope that testifying tonight is not simply an exercise in futility but I still look forward to the day the MTA will actually be responsive to us, the people who use public transportation.