What Went Wrong With Second Avenue Subway Construction? The MTA Doesn’t Want You to Know.
The MTA won't hand over contractor evaluations to the Times. The Times should sue.
MTA capital construction costs are higher than those of any other comparable transit system on the planet. Upgrading the subway system and building expansion projects hinges on wresting these exorbitant costs under control.
At the end of last year, the Times published an expose by Brian Rosenthal detailing the sources of MTA construction bloat — the no-show jobs, poor oversight of contracting, and lavish spending on consultants that enrich favored firms while depriving New York of the transit system it needs.
While MTA board members are making noise about better contracting, and reporters continue to connect the dots between Governor Cuomo’s campaign donors and his mismanagement of the MTA, not much has changed since Rosenthal’s story dropped.
An agency that spent a world-beating $1.3 billion per mile to build the Second Avenue Subway might want to enlist all the help it can get to bring costs down. But that’s not how the MTA operates. When the New York Times filed a freedom of information request for Second Avenue Subway contractor evaluations, the MTA declined:
Hey, New Yorkers: Do you want to know how effective private companies were at spending billions of dollars of your money on the building of the Second Avenue Subway?
— Brian M. Rosenthal (@brianmrosenthal) July 25, 2018
What makes the MTA’s refusal all the more galling is that even if you accept the excuse about “opinions and evaluations,” the agency should have released the documents with redactions, instead of hiding them all.
“They’re flouting law,” Rosenthal tweeted, “which allows withholding a record only if it’ll impair an imminent contract award.”
Hopefully the Times takes the MTA to court, where the agency may delay but won’t be able to keep these documents out of public view forever.