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Wednesday’s Headlines: Million Dollar Staircase Edition

12:03 AM EST on February 15, 2023

Legislators rallied in Albany for better MTA service. Photo: Dave Colon

We sent Dave Colon to Albany to cover Tuesday's rally on the famed Million Dollar Staircase as the Fix the MTA coalition made the case for its multi-billion dollar MTA rescue package, including six-minute service, free buses and calling off a potential 5.5-percent fare hike. It also meant rhetorically setting apart the group's bill package from the comparatively more modest budget proposal from Gov. Hochul that plugs the transit agency's billion-dollar fiscal hole but doesn't increase service, head off a fare hike or otherwise change business as usual at the agency.

"The MTA is broken and needs fixing," said State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens). "And when we talk about fixing the MTA, we're not talking about putting a Band-Aid on the problem. We're not talking about scraping a couple of nickels together to get them through another year and then facing the same problem again next year. We're talking about real structural change that will put the MTA and sound fiscal quarter going forward forever."

The structural change Gianaris, and his legislative partner, Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani (D-Queens), are talking about has hit some headwinds in Albany. When MTA Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber talked to state legislators about the budget, he called free buses too big of an experiment, and suggested the MTA isn't ready or able to run bus or train service every six minutes in the off-peak hours.

It's also unclear whether all of part of the effort will find enough traction to get into the legislative budget counteroffer due in a matter of weeks. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) said that she wouldn't make preventing a fare hike a red line, but on the other hand said her conference was not keen on them.

"We're not interested in fare hikes," Stewart-Cousins told reporters on Tuesday. "I don't draw the lines in the sand. You know, we're just trying to get to a place that, again, underscores the mission making sure the MTA is solvent and viable and trying to impose as little pain as possible. You know, you're trying to increase ridership and to increase fares would be detrimental."

But the legislators and advocates who took to the seven figure staircase said they were in fact drawing a line in the sand, or at least graffiting one on the subway floor.

"We are not going to sign off on a budget that has a downward spiral of asking New Yorkers to pay more for the same shitty service," Mamdani vowed at the end of the rally.

Colon stayed in Albany on Tuesday night so he could catch the Eric Adams roadshow on Wednesday. Hizzoner will be testifying before the Ways and Means Committee about budget priorities — and gaggling after. (The Post previewed it.)

In other news from a busy Tuesday:

    • First off, don't miss our old man editor on NY1 at 8:30 on Wednesday morning, talking about entitled drivers (what else!) and this story about parking.
    • Lots of outlets covered Tuesday's City Council oversight hearing on Vision Zero issues:
      • Outlets like amNY, Hell Gate, Gothamist and Streetsblog focused on DOT's decided "no" on a slate of Council bills that even advocates don't really want.
      • The Daily News de-emphasized the hearing and focused mostly on already documented numbers on the uptick in children being killed on New York City roads.
    • Similarly, lots of outlets did second-day coverage of Monday's U-Haul rampage in Brooklyn (NYDN, NY Post, amNY, Gothamist). Sidebars included:
    • OK, we love micro-mobility as much as the next guy, but 50 lithium-ion batteries isn't good. (NYDN, NY Post)
    • The Daily News also followed our coverage of the FDNY's new effort on the flammable batteries.
    • Blade says its new e-helicopters are silent. Of course, the Post's video didn't feature it in the air.
    • The Brooklyn Paper and Crain's are the latest outlets to follow Julianne Cuba's coverage of state inaction on the BQE.
    • In case you missed it, Gothamist wants the Interborough Express to revert to its original name — the Triboro!
    • This Hell Gate piece by a non-cyclist was a bit ... weird.

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