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.

  • Glenn

    Do a news search on any Manhattan Senator and seems they are talking about other issues.

    Liz Krueger’s upstate talking about property tax caps

  • Caught That

    Yeah, I caught that…you’re trying to back door Congestion Pricing in through the Ravitch Plan. And this time you’re trying to do it for ALL of Manhattan. The MTA “bailout” is to improve MTA and should have nothing to do with traffic congestion, bridge tolls, etc. I am so confounded by how “advocates” are not out on the warpath for MTA to be more accountable. When’s the last time you saw a real subway improvement with the money that is poured into that failed “authority” year after year? Yeah Albany has to ante, but the real problem IS the accountability-less MTA?

  • Yeah, I caught that…you’re trying to back door Congestion Pricing in through the Ravitch Plan.

    Shhh! Do you want to ruin the whole thing?

  • Ian Turner

    What’s the last time you saw a real subway improvement

    I dunno, maybe last month?

    When you say that the MTA should “be more accountable”, what specific changes did you have in mind?

  • rhubarbpie

    I think this is a fair criticism. There really is no legislator in the Senate with the transit record Schneiderman has, and while he has responsibility for an important committee (Codes, I think) he could play a good role. Maybe. One question is whether his help would be welcome — I’m not sure it would be.

    But I still wish I saw him in front, mostly because he is one of the more imaginative legislators up there and might be able to figure a way out of this mess while winning the votes needed to pass a decent plan. God knows they need some help, not to win an un-passable toll plan but to figure out some way of getting the dough the MTA needs.

    By the way, I’m all for making the MTA more accountable (and anyone who has dealt with any authorities, or for that matter most governments, in New York knows there is plenty of room for additional accountability). But things at the MTA are a lot better than they used to be…budgets are released earlier, more information is on the web, etc.), though, again, not perfect.

    The fact is that the real problem this time is not the MTA but the bottoming-out economy, which — hard to believe, I know — actually affects how much money the MTA has, since the tax receipts they use to balance the authority’s budget are dropping (as they are for the city, state and most cities and states across the nation).

    Time for the feds to print some money, I think.


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