Labor, Elected Officials and Community Groups Rally For Transit Lockbox

Assembly Member David Weprin speaks in favor of the transit lockbox bill on the steps of City Hall this morning. To his left are Senator Daniel Squadron and City Council Member Letitia James. To his right are Assembly Member Richard Gottfried and TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen. Photo: Noah Kazis.

Dozens of transit workers, transportation advocates and elected officials rallied on the steps of City Hall this morning to urge Governor Cuomo to sign the transit lockbox bill, which passed both houses of the legislature unanimously in June. “New York communities are not standing alone,” said TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen. “Transit workers are not standing alone. We’re standing together.”

The lockbox bill, which was sponsored by Assembly Member James Brennan and State Senator Marty Golden, would make it harder for both the governor and the legislature to continue raiding dedicated transit funds. The bill needs the governor’s signature to become law, but Cuomo has given no indication that he’s willing to stand up for transit riders and good government. “We’re going to be talking to the governor very shortly about this bill. This week,” said Samuelsen.

The state has stolen $260 million in funds from the MTA in the last two years, prompting an unprecedented wave of service cuts and fare hikes.

It isn’t cause for worry that the governor hasn’t signed the bill yet, said Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, but he urged his constituents and colleagues to push Cuomo to support the bill. “People need to speak out,” he said. “Elected officials need to speak out.” Gottfried, who represents much of midtown Manhattan, said that his district is the center of the universe, entirely due to its transit access.

Gottfried was joined by a number of elected officials from both the state and city governments.

Assembly Member David Weprin promised that even though the voters didn’t send him to Washington to fight for mass transit, he’ll do so from Albany. “We cannot have funds, as has been done in the past, diverted from mass transit,” said Weprin in support of the lockbox bill. “The governor should sign it now.”

State Senator Daniel Squadron warned against the idea, too common in Albany, that it’s “easy to take some money now.” If you do that, he warned, “you pay the price tomorrow.”

Also speaking in favor of the bill were City Council Members Letitia James and Robert Jackson. Council Member Michael Nelson has introduced a resolution in support of the lockbox to the City Council; Larry Seabrook and Jumaane Williams are its other co-sponsors.

Though not appearing at today’s rally, which also called for the passage of President Obama’s jobs package as another source of support for transit, major business groups like the General Contractors Association and New York Building Congress and good government groups like the League of Women Voters and Common Cause have also urged the governor to sign the lockbox bill.