Eric Schneiderman Cedes Leadership on MTA Rescue

Schneiderman.jpgIf there’s one state legislator who gets it when it comes to the value of transit and car-free mobility, it’s Senator Eric Schneiderman. Representing parts of the Upper West Side, Northern Manhattan and the Bronx since 1998, Schneiderman once served as counsel for NYPIRG. He heralded the release of PlaNYC, likening its sweeping vision for the city to that of "a twenty-first century, kinder and gentler Robert Moses." In late 2007 Schneiderman co-wrote, along with Gene Russianoff, an op-ed for the Daily News systematically tying MTA financial woes to the failures of Albany and, to a lesser degree, New York City lawmakers.

Lately, however, to the chagrin of some of his constituents, including yours truly, Schneiderman hasn’t had much to say about the MTA, focusing instead on other (not inconsequential) issues as transit-riding New Yorkers teeter on the brink of doomsday. I contacted Schneiderman’s office early this week and asked about MTA rescue — specifically, whether the senator supports Malcolm Smith’s taxi surcharge bill (set for a Tuesday vote at that point), or if he prefers a plan closer to the Ravitch proposal, including tolls on East and Harlem River bridges. This was the response:

Senator Schneiderman is fully committed to finding a solution that will both address the MTA’s fiscal crisis and gain the necessary votes in the Senate. As has been covered by the media, the details of the bailout have been a controversial matter. In the end, thirty-two senators must vote in favor of a bill. Up to this point, there have not been 32 Senators — including both Democrats and Republicans — who have been willing to support a particular proposal. However, Senator Schneiderman is confident that a plan will get worked out soon — a Senate bill has already been introduced this week — which will finally gain the necessary votes.

Considering Schneiderman’s history of telling it like it is on this subject, this is a deeply unsatisfying answer. In fact, it’s a non-answer, a mere summary of what one could read in most any local newspaper any day of the week, along with a platitudinous assurance that a workable plan is on its way — and we all know what that means.

Streetsbloggers have repeatedly called on Manhattan’s Senate delegation to take a strong position in favor of an MTA rescue package that at least resembles the Ravitch proposal — a sensible, equitable plan that addresses traffic congestion while providing a sustainable transit revenue stream. Sadly, for those of us who were hoping Eric Schneiderman might respond to that call, it seems we need to turn elsewhere.

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