De Blasio Deputy Anthony Shorris Ducks Questions on MTA Funding

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s One New York plan, focused on the intersection of income inequality and the environment, doesn’t hesitate to make big recommendations to the MTA, like a new subway line. To pay for those plans, de Blasio will need Governor Cuomo and the state legislature to take action, but the mayor isn’t putting forward his own ideas about how to fund the MTA.

First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris. Photo: Wikipedia

While the Move NY toll reform plan aligns with the mayor’s environmental and equity goals, de Blasio has avoided taking a position on it. Today, his top deputy wouldn’t elaborate on City Hall’s position except to note that the mayor is “leading the fight” to pass a federal transportation bill.

After his morning keynote at the annual Regional Plan Association assembly at the Waldorf-Astoria, First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris continued the administration’s waltz around the Move NY Fair Plan during a press scrum.

“Look, I think one thing we’ve said from the beginning is the full funding of the MTA capital program is essential to the city, to this mayor’s agenda, and to the whole One New York plan, and even more broadly, to the whole region,” Shorris said. “Everybody’s going to have to figure out how to come together and do that. That’s the city, the state, the MTA itself.”

Then Shorris shifted to Congress.

“It’s also very important that the transportation bill in Washington be passed. There’s actually a critical federal component,” Shorris said.

I asked if that meant the city wouldn’t talk about its transit funding preferences until a new transportation bill passes Congress. “No, it means that we all, though, have to fight to get that transportation bill funded,” Shorris replied, “and the mayor’s leading that fight right now.”

When it comes to funding the MTA, however, federal policy is the wrong place to focus. With power in Washington split between the Obama White House and the GOP Congress, federal transit funding isn’t about to change much. The arena where the mayor has allies and can actually make a difference is Albany.

Support for toll reform appears to be building in the state legislature, but it looks like this is one fight the de Blasio team isn’t going to lead. “I’ve read summaries of it, not the plan [itself],” Shorris said. “I think it’s a really important contribution to the conversation.”

Meanwhile, at a breakfast speech to the Association for a Better New York a few blocks away, Cuomo announced a surprise reappointment for well-respected MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast, but didn’t reveal any details about how he’d like to fill the gap in the authority’s capital program.

“I’m very excited about being reappointed,” Prendergast told the Times’ Emma Fitzsimmons, “but my mission at hand is to make sure I get a capital program.”

Albany’s window to come up with a solution ends when the legislative session wraps up in less than two months.

  • Fakey McFakename

    I think the BDB administration keeping quiet about details is a good tactical move. I think State Senate Republicans can’t vote for anything associated too closely with BDB.

  • Brendan A. MacWade

    I keep saying it to my friends…..District of Gotham. The only way to control our destiny is to become a separate territory from NY State (succession, or at least a takeover of the MTA by the city and a chinese wall to protect the city’s tax revenues from Albany).

  • Joe R.

    I feel NYC should become an independent city-state along the lines of Singapore. We’ll be better off in that we won’t be sending tax revenues to either NYS or the federal government. NYC might have raise its tax rates a bit but that will be more than offset when people no longer have to pay federal income tax, NYS income tax, or social security tax.

  • van_vlissingen

    NYC gets its water from upstate New York – Catskills System & Westchester – so secession (state or federal) without those counties becomes way more complex. An easier solution for MTA funding at least would be to split the MTA into a regional transportation authority which consists of MetroNorth & LIRR, and a Metro which consists of NYCT, SIRR etc. Then all toll revenue (from TBTA & MoveNY) would go to the local metro – for it’s upkeep and improvements. That’s only fair because it is the 5 boroughs/counties of NYC which bear the environmental cost of having all the bridges which link the downstate region to the rest of the state.

  • Joe R.

    It’s also fair because NYC is arguably the economic engine which drives the entire state of New York, and also contributes a good amount to the total US GDP.

  • J_12

    Fun idea to think about, but more realistically what about bringing NYC transit back under city control. At the very least, the Mayor of NYC should get the greatest number of MTA board appointments.

    The authority system is a relic of another era. I think we have proven that corruption and graft are going to exist no matter where control lies, so we might as make control local and keep the graft within the city.

    Commuter rail could remain in state run authority, but the subways and city buses should be under a city agency.

  • Ian Turner

    The analogy with Singapore is apt, as it also imports a significant portion of its water supply across what used to be an intranational border.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_supply_and_sanitation_in_Singapore#Water_sources_and_integrated_management

  • Bolwerk

    How about bring NYC back under NYC control? 😀

    I don’t think we gain much from organizational atomization (or its opposite). The MTA just follows rules that are prescribed to it, and kind of lets operating practices, work rules, pay, etc. take on lives of their own their through contractual obligations – because that’s the MTA’s mission. A bunch of smaller authorities doing the same thing isn’t going to help things much.

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