Blame Game Continues: Smith Swipes at MTA, Monserrate Goes Anti-Toll

hiram1222.jpgThere’s MTA rescue news today from the State Senate, and none of it good. 

Queens Senator Hiram Monserrate, who had considered new tolls on East and Harlem River bridges acceptable as a "last resort," has flip-flopped. The Daily Politics reports that Monserrate now opposes new tolls, and faults the MTA for "failing to explain ‘specifically’ how toll revenue would be used to pay for service and capital improvements." From a statement released today:

"Solving financial problems on the backs of hard-working New Yorkers
now struggling with their own financial problems is the least desirable
course of action," the senator stated.

"Tolling of the East River bridges should be considered only after
passage of the ‘Millionaire’s Tax’ that will ensure the wealthiest
residents of New York pay their fair share."

"For these reasons, support of the so-called ‘Ravitch Plan’ is not in the best interests of New Yorkers."

Monserrate presides over a district where 53 percent of presumably hard-working households do not own cars and rely on transit, while less than five percent drive or carpool into Lower Manhattan for work. Still it looks as if his own windshield perspective has clouded his judgment enough that he would abandon the only viable plan in existence for a proposal that is positively Weiner-esque in its implausibility.

In other developments, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith this morning laid his inability to unite the Democratic bloc at the feet of the MTA itself. Here is Smith, again from The Daily Politics:

"I know they have this deadline; I just don’t think it’s appropriate for the MTA to sort of hold the public hostage and say, ‘Well if we don’t get to the deadline we’re going to charge you more.’"

"The public didn’t cause their failures in terms of how they managed their budget," the senator continued. "It’s the failure of their performance that has now asked the legislators to help."

"Yes, we can be there to help, but then we should have together have decided what the deadline was. Not them to impose their will on us and say ‘because we screwed up, that we now are going to tell you if you don’t help us we’re now going to have a problem or cause a problem for the public.’"

While he did not declare tolls to be completely off the table, Smith says he is not counting votes because he has not seen a proposal — including the Ravitch plan, apparently — which "is worthy of having that kind of discussion."

  • The bad news is that the MTA is going to have to really drop the bomb. When the fare hikes kick in, there will be angry words, but the real impact will be in the service cuts. They will savage the city’s economy because it can’t function well without adequate subway service any more than a heart can function without an aorta. Subways — not surface transport — are what provide the rapid throughput that makes our central business district viable. Cutting them will be the straw that breaks the camels back for a wide variety of businesses and careers. People will start streaming out of the city and New York go from being a sustainable (if troubled) city to an urban no-hoper like Detroit. The same will be true of New York State in general if it has to get along when its cash cow runs dry. I hope the upstate Republicans are reading this.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I know they have this deadline; I just don’t think it’s appropriate for the MTA to sort of hold the public hostage and say, ‘Well if we don’t get to the deadline we’re going to charge you more.'”

    The deadline was years ago.

    “The so-called ‘Ravitch Plan’ is not in the best interests of New Yorkers.”

    And neither is anything else you people have done. But you’ve done a whole hell of a lot for ex-New Yorkers.

  • Rhywun

    The same will be true of New York State in general if it has to get along when its cash cow runs dry.

    The same HAS been true of upstate NY for decades. It’s really, really bad up there. Not Detroit bad, but inching closer. And that goes for the whole region, not just the cities. The small towns and the rural areas are mired in hopelessness, too.

  • J-Uptown

    These politicians have no vision and no leadership. They drive everywhere and are thus ignorant of how vital the transit systems are to the lives of their constituents. It may well take a transit crisis to finally boot these guys out of office. Maybe if the city and state revoked the parking and driving privileges that go along with elected office, then our elected officials would actually be able to relate to most of their citizenry. For now, let’s hope their contempt for transit riders will doom them to early retirement.

  • Rhywun

    “Tolling of the East River bridges should be considered only after passage of the ‘Millionaire’s Tax’ that will ensure the wealthiest residents of New York pay their fair share.”

    In other words, when pigs fly.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Oh they’ll pass that tax.

    And then what happens next year when they’re up for re-election? They’ll borrow.

    And then what happens the year after when the stimulus money runs out and no one will lend to them anymore?

    http://www.r8ny.com/blog/larry_littlefield/preparing_for_institutional_collapse.html

  • Rhywun

    Oh they’ll pass that tax.

    Yeah, on second thought that money would go into the general fund (i.e. into government worker pensions) rather than into infrastructure, so you’re right, it could happen.

    There’s nothing personal to gain by saving transit so why bother. The collapse will happen long after they’re out of office (or have moved up).

  • “The public didn’t cause their failures in terms of how they managed their budget.”

    No, but our elected representatives did by failing to properly fund the MTA for years.

  • The Daily Politics reports that Monserrate now opposes new tolls, and faults the MTA for “failing to explain ‘specifically’ how toll revenue would be used to pay for service and capital improvements.”

    I’m a little confused by Monserrate’s idiocy. What does he want the MTA to tell him? It’s really quite simple. The East River bridges get tolled; the MTA collects the revenue — as it current does from its own Bridge & Tunnel division; the money goes into the budget; and out comes a better-funded transit agency.

    Is he really asking for a specific count of how the MTA plans to spend all of the few hundred million dollars it stands to earn if the East River bridges are tolled? Or is he just being dumb and dense and obstructionist?

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    The way this works is that with a Democratic majority so slim the holdouts have all the clout. As the others watch them being rewarded for saying no they want in on the action. They have clearly determined that the most valuable thing to do with that clout is to wait until the budget battle begins and see what they can lever their support for. And, unfortunately I think Smith’s point of view probably does represent a majority of NYC voters. They have been misled by the tabloids on serious issues like this for so long who can blame them? And, in the end, when Pataki was handing out his tax “rebates” during his election campaign he was cheered on by the voters. Plenty of people sounded the alarms but who cared?

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