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Meet the MTA Board Member and Congestion Pricing Foe Who Uses Bridges and Tunnels For Free Every Day

Mack drives over the transportation authority's bridges and tunnels thanks to a rare perk of which he is the primary beneficent.

Photo: Marc Hermann/MTA|

Mack was the sole vote against congestion pricing at the MTA’s March board meeting.

Long Island real estate tycoon, MTA board rep and congestion pricing foe David Mack drives over the transportation authority's bridges and tunnels for free nearly every day thanks to a rare perk — but says his constant free rides have nothing to do with his opposition to congestion pricing.

Mack is one of three board members grandfathered into a program that allows them free crossing on any of the MTA's five bridges and two tunnels — something he claims is necessary to do "reconnaissance" in his "management" role as the chair of the board's Bridges and Tunnels committee.

“Every day I’m there. Every single day I’m on the road, if I’m on the road, I’m going to cross or go through an MTA tunnel,” Mack told Streetsblog. “I do reconnaissance — that’s management.”

Mack, who served as MTA Board vice chairman from 1993 to 2009 and rejoined the board as Nassau County's representative in 2018, used his free E-ZPass 407 times over the roughly 14 months between the beginning of 2022 and mid-March of 2023, according to data Streetsblog obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request. 

The longtime fixture of Long Island politics used his pass nearly once a day during that period — twice as much as his two other board colleagues, accounting for 52 percent of all free crossings logged by the board members during that time.

One transportation advocate questioned Mack's claim that his daily inspections were crucial to the MTA's operations. 

“It’s important that he understands what it’s like to go over bridges and tunnels, but that also comes with the responsibility to share findings about the bridges and tunnels,” said Lisa Daglian, the executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA. “I haven’t actually heard him give feedback.” 

The MTA ditched the toll exemptions for incoming board members about five years ago. The data released by the MTA did not include board member identities. A source identified Mack as the top user.

The only two other board members who have served long enough to still benefit from the policy are Metro-North labor rep Norman Brown and Neal Zuckerman of Putnam County. (MTA officials confirmed that all three members are the remaining recipients of the perk.)

The Whitestone Bridge is one of the MTA's five bridges and two tunnels.Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin.

The MTA-issued E-ZPasses won’t exempt the board members from congestion pricing when it launches in June, according to MTA officials. Still, advocates slammed Mack’s frequent use of the benefit — especially amid his criticism that tolls on drivers entering Manhattan below 60th Street will harm city businesses and "kill the goose that lays the egg."

“Nelson Rockefeller, who created the MTA, and Dick Ravitch, who was its most prominent and impactful chairperson, would roll over in their graves if they knew how David Mack was abusing his position,” said Danny Pearlstein of Riders Alliance. “He exemplifies the special privileges that give people the idea that we should be relentlessly cynical about government.”

Mack defended his taxpayer-funded jaunts across MTA’s spans and tunnels, saying he needed to inspect the facilities first-hand. The 82-year-old checks out “as many as I can” on his commute between Long Island and his office in New Jersey, he said.

“I’m in management, I manage all my properties, absentee management stinks — I’m there," he said.

Mack cast the sole “No” vote against congestion pricing last month when the MTA approved the toll prices at its board meeting. Speaking during the vote, he claimed the toll would harm the city’s pandemic recovery by keeping office workers from returning to Manhattan and hurting businesses. He told Streetsblog his E-ZPass perk has "nothing to do" with his views on the tolls.

Mack said he also rides the Long Island Rail Road to get out to his home in East Hampton and takes the bus “once in a while,” but doesn’t use the subway often.

The development honcho also opposed the MTA getting rid of free E-ZPasses and MetroCards-for-life for board members in 2008, which then-state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said were an “illegal compensation” for the otherwise unpaid panelists.

The MTA still gives out free MetroCards and passes for its two railroads to current board members. The subway and bus tickets get far more use, but only three of the 23-member group actually used it more than once a day, Streetsblog previously reported in 2022.  

Brown, who represents Metro-North workers on the board, used his pass just under 200 times over the 14 months of data MTA provided.

The Brooklynite said he uses his free pass a couple of times a week, mostly in the Hugh Carey Tunnel, but said the benefit shouldn’t be such a big deal for Mack, a well-heeled real estate developer. 

“If I was a billionaire I wouldn’t give a fuck about that. I wouldn’t be dancing around on a board either,” Brown said.

Mack has made headlines in the past for driving to the MTA’s monthly board and parking his Lexus illegally in a dedicated MTA Police spot right outside the agency’s Lower Manhattan headquarters, and he reportedly flipped off MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber when the transit chief yanked his parking placard. 

Mack disputed to Streetsblog that he made the crude gesture at the MTA chief two years ago. 

“Absolutely not, I don’t give anyone the finger,” Mack said.

The suburbanite's first stint on the board ended amid a probe into the State Police’s decision to give him a badge and uniform for an unpaid deputy superintendent position. 

Correction (April 18, 2024, 4:12 p.m.): A previous version of this article erroneously stated that David Mack used an expired parking placard to illegally park outside MTA headquarters. He did not use an expired placard. The prior version of the article also stated that Mack had no prior police experience during the State Police probe, but he serves as Nassau County Police’s First Assistant Commissioner, an unsalaried position he has reportedly held since at least the 1980s. Streetsblog regrets the errors.

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