Transit Riders to Diaz: Not In Our Name

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Constituents picketed outside the office of Ruben Diaz, Sr. yesterday to urge the Bronx state senator to get behind the MTA rescue plan, which includes new tolls on East and Harlem River bridges. Though some 140,000 people in his district use transit every day, and are facing serious service cuts along with steep fare hikes, Diaz is adamantly opposed to the tolls, which would affect a relative handful of drivers.

City Room reports that protesters were especially concerned about the impact the planned cuts would have on the district’s seniors.

Carl VanPutten, 76, a retired taxicab driver from the South Bronx, said that he takes the Bx4 bus, one of the lines threatened by the authority’s fiscal crisis, to get to his health-maintenance organization for check-ups and other medical appointments. He said he could take the subway but there are no elevators, making it difficult for him.

"Climbing the stairs to the subway which is above it is a problem because they don’t have elevators," said Mr. VanPutten. "I take the bus, I get off right in front of it. I can go in and come back out."

Chanting slogans like "Diaz don’t betray our trust, our people ride the bus," protesters pointed out that the currently-proposed $2 toll is the same amount that they pay to take the bus and subway every day.

A staffer interviewed by City Room said that Diaz opposes new tolls because "a sufficient number of people in this community take taxis across the east river bridges," and said Diaz would prefer to reinstate the commuter tax — nixed by Albany lawmakers in the 1990s — than impose the tolls. As Mobilizing the Region notes, Diaz has also proposed saving the MTA through prescription drugs from Canada.

Yesterday’s action was led by COMMUTE, a coalition of advocacy groups including Nos Quedamos, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, Sustainable South Bronx, and The POINT CDC/ACTION.

"We believe that Senator Diaz — and Senators [Pedro] Espada and [Ruth] Hassell-Thompson — can change their minds," said Anna Vincenty of Nos Quedamos. 

Photo via COMMUTE

  • “A staffer interviewed by City Room said that Diaz opposes new tolls because ‘a sufficient number of people in this community take taxis across the east river bridges’.”

    In other words, the high price of caviar means we can’t afford a cracker to spread it on.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The New York Times just posted on the MTA Board meeting, and the Board’s reports of the agency’s dire financial condition. Here are some of the reader’s comments:

    March 13, 2009
    12:15 pm

    “I’m curious to know why is the M.T.A. always short on money? Wasn’t that what the last fare increase was all about? Wasn’t that what all the previous fare increases were all about? Would it be too much to get a bit of transparency as to how the “company” is being operated? Or like the banks and financial institutions, the M.T.A’s. CFO is just another overpaid moron?”

    — *s

    “The MTA is a joke that cries, “dire warnings!”, every chance it gets. The public has no confidence that this mob like organization is anything but corrupt and dishonest.

    You can only cry wolf so many times.”

    — black market joe

    “I think we could do without the PA system improvements. No one can understand what is said over the PA system anyway. How much would that save?”

    — Chris

    “Are you kidding me!? THIEVES is the only word I could use to describe the MTA.

    Service is horrible, the speaker announcements are more annoying then helpful and the rise cost is astronomical!

    STOP robbing NYers!”

    — Angela

    “We just had a fare increase. The MTA’s inability to balance and plan a budget, should not fall on riders. This wreaks of mismanagement.”

    — Mae

    “So does this mean they’ll halt work on the 2nd Ave line or the extension of the 7 train? If their financial state is so poor, why did they take on these massive projects in the first place? The reality: they are a corrupt monopoly that millions of people rely on every day. They know they can put NY’ers in whatever position they want and just keep taking out money.”

    — tyler durden

    “Let the users of the system pay as you go. Maybe when subsidy money from the suburbs stops flowing to the black hole of the MTA, urban users of the system will start questioning the spending by this bloated bureaucracy. Frankly, we in the suburbs are sick and tired of paying $5 each way to cross bridges, just so urban New Yorkers can pay artificially low subway and bus fares.”

    — Paul, White Plains conservative

    “It’s because there workers demand raises every year since they are part of a union, they are entitled to a raise. That’s what the last hike was about not our budget problem but giving the workers more money.”

    — C

    “Didnt they just have a billion dollar surplus?!? What happened to that money?”

    — Tom

    “If 2.5 million people buy the monthly pass at $82 a month (half of the MTA’s stated ridership), then the MTA easily has revenue of $205+ million a month and $2.4+ billion a year. How is the MTA not able to run a service on this? There should be not only more transparency, but shouldn’t someone be going to jail?”

    — b

    “What about the 2009 stimulus package?”

    — Dana

    “My biggest beef with the MTA’s plan is that, once again, almost all of the hardship and burden is placed on people who live outside Manhattan. There aren’t going to be service cuts on the Lexington Avenue line, nor on any of the lines servicing the Upper West Side. But residents of Brooklyn and Queens who have no choice but to use mass transit will face steeper fares, longer waits (if their bus and subway lines aren’t eliminated altogether), stations with no agents, and the additional indignity of another payroll tax.

    How many more reasons to residents in the outer boroughs need before we seriously start to consider seceding from “the Greater City of New York”?”

    — Steven Tom

    “Simply put, the MTA is deplorable. It is the worst subway system I have ever seen, and I have used MANY throughout the world. It’s unreliable, dirty and borderline impossible to use if you are elderly or disabled. They should fire half the staff and invest in computers. It is blatantly obvious that they run inefficiently. I abhor the MTA and use it every day. I cannot imagine the F geeting any worse…but apparently we are about to see that happen.”

    — Daniel

    “The MTA should be renamed Chicken Little. “We need more money! We need more money!”

    — Diana

    “How come fees are not reduced when there is a budget surplus? How come service has to be cut on some lines and not others? Why cant the cut service evenly on all lines? How come the public cant get to see the MTA budget if the public helps finance it?”

    — A.B

    “LIES!!! There is no fiscal crisis in the MTA. The MTA runs 2 sets of books, as proven by State Comptroller Alan Hevesi in 2002. They hide millions of dollars in this second accounting ledger so they can cry “Bankruptcy!” and squeeze millions of more dollars from the state and city budgets.
    PROTEST the MTA!!! Deny any increase they request until they come clean about their financial history and future. They’ll just keep at it.”

    — Bill

    Russianoff are you reading this? Congratulations — these people have heard you.

  • Larry Littlefield

    And by the way, this isn’t caused by lack of knowledge. It is values we are seeing. The values of our political class and the small number of pigs who keep them in office.

    And once again, after these folks have had their way for 15 years, there is no way to avoid a disastrous reduction in our quality of life at higher taxes.

    I’ll bet lots of folks like this ran their personal finances the way they insisted our collective finances be run — based on “I want for me now.” They’re the ones crying for bailouts.

  • “Diaz has also proposed saving the MTA through prescription drugs from Canada.”

    … huh?

    “I think we could do without the PA system improvements. No one can understand what is said over the PA system anyway. How much would that save?”

    The PA system is bad, therefore we should not improve it. That comment wins the Worst Logic Of The Day prize.

  • Larry Littlefield

    More from the Times:

    “While the authority was running a large surplus just two years ago..”

    Here is where the real fraud is. The authority was running a “surplus” while its debts and unfunded retirement benefit obligations were soaring by $billions per year. How is that a surplus? Because the MTA wasn’t going into the hole as fast as the state legislature intended?

    The second set of books doesn’t include hidden $billions. It includes missing $billions. And, by the way, I’ll bet every member of the “Gang of Whatever” who was in office at the time voted to increase the retirement for transit workers from 25/55 to 20/50. Everyone one. Because the vote in the NYS Legislature was unanimous.

  • Bronxite

    I don’t understand? Why does Senator Diaz oppose the tolls? Is it behind the scenes favor for the TLC? Is it because they are more highly unified voters than a typical area resident? The vast majority of commuters in his district use transit. He should be all for tolling to help out the vast majority of his district.

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