Mass transit advocates took issue with how Gov. Cuomo would like to redirect $40 million in next year’s budget for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
But the governor’s office is responding by saying that the money will help the MTA pay down debt and still keep the agency flush with increased cash.
In a press conference held last Sunday at the Manhattan offices of the Riders Alliance, Assemblyman James Brennan (D-Brooklyn) said Cuomo’s proposed budget will sweep the money from a dedicated mass transit fund to a line used to pay debt service on MTA service bond contracts. The group asserts that the state has committed to paying off the bonds to relieve the MTA of the costs.
The Riders Alliance called on Cuomo to use the money to either reduce planned fare increases in 2015 and 2017, or improve existing MTA services.
In an accompanying statement, Assemblyman Michael Den Dekker (D-East Elmhurst) said it could be used to reinstate at least some of the bus service in northern and northeastern Queens that was eliminated during the fiscal crisis of 2010.
“In a city as dependent on public transportation as New York, it is crucial that we provide residents with a full range of transit options,” he said.
Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Flushing) said the move “flies in the face of and reneges on our commitment to help commuters.”
They signed a Feb. 12 letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) asking that the money be retained for MTA operations. It also was signed by Assembly members Vivian Cook (D-Jamaica), Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth), Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) and Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria).
Others at the press conference included the Straphangers Campaign, the New York League of Conservation Voters and William Henderson of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA.
In a statement issued by Cuomo’s office on Monday, his administration pointed out that the $40 million would in fact be used for MTA-related costs, if not the ones those at the press conference want.
“The Executive Budget supports transit by using $40 million to pay down some of the debt accrued for MTA projects while also increasing operating aid to the MTA by another $85 million to over $4.3 billion,” according to the statement.
A spokesman for state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau) said they would have no comment until the expected release of the Senate budget proposal next week.