Mayor targeted in unions ads as tensions mount over MTA funding

By Bill Parry

Mayor Bill de Blasio is firing back at the Transit Workers Union for launching a new ad campaign attacking him for underfunding the state-controlled mass transit system.

“Where are you taking us?” reads the ad that depicts de Blasio as the motorman of a graffiti-covered subway train. It is appearing in newspapers and on fliers at subway stations from members of TWU Local 100.

“Mayor de Blasio risks taking us back to the bad old days of the 1970s and 1980s when graffiti-covered subway trains regularly broke down and rickety buses sputtered from stop to stop,” the ad says. The TWU, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the MTA are pressuring the city to help fill a $3.2 billion deficit in the transit authority’s five-year $30 billion capital plan.

“I think it’s an absolutely misleading ad, and it’s a pitiful attempt to disguise where the real responsibility for the MTA lies,” de Blasio said Monday. “All of the dire warnings in that ad should be addressed to the state of New York.”

In a statement, the mayor’s office says the city has funded three quarters of the MTA’s operating budget, and put in more than twice as much capital funding as the state this year.

The ads appeared one week after MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast declared that if the capital plan had to be trimmed, he planned to slash funding to New York City transit projects, a warning notion that drew a rebuke from city Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who called the idea “punitive and pretty divisive” during an MTA board meeting. .

Borough President Melinda Katz weighed in on the threat to slash funding.

“It is astonishing to me that the MTA would threaten to hold New York City transit projects hostage for more city money,” Katz said in a statement last week. “The MTA is an authority created by the Legislature to deliver transit services throughout the region, not to stifle projects at the expense of millions of suffering customers. New York City residents and businesses already pay more than our fair share at 75 percent of the MTA’s regional budget, and yet in a transit desert like Queens, most of the subway stations we do have are still structurally deficient.”

A study released by the Citizens Budget Committee showed that the borough had six of the 10 worst subway stations in the city. The CBC also reported that the beleaguered No. 7 subway line has the most facilities in need of repair. Its 21 stops have 37 percent of their stairs, platform edges and ventilators in a state of poor repair, more than any other line in the city.

“Millions of Queens residents have long deserved a more reliable mass transit experience, and capital projects like the full reconstruction of the Jamaica Bus Depot, signal modernization along the E, F, M and R lines and complete renovations of 16 Queens subway stations are absolutely critical,” Katz said. “Considering them as bargaining chips does little to instill confidence in the MTA.”

Meanwhile, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a report Tuesday that warned of consequences for commuters should the mayor and governor fail to reach a compromise.

“If the MTA doesn’t get the funding it needs, the MTA will have to choose between cutting the size of the capital program or borrowing more, which could lead to less reliable service or higher fares and tolls,” DiNapoli said in a statement.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

More from Around New York