By Mark Hallum
Mayor Bill de Blasio released a fiscal 2019 executive budget of $89 billion with clear animosity toward Albany for its mandate in the state budget requiring the city to pay half of the more than $836 million tab for the Subway Action Plan to repair the failing public transit system.,
Not only did de Blasio call for full accounting on the funds put toward the Subway Action Plan, the administration did not answer the call of many for the city to include Fair Fares, government-funded, half-priced MetroCard swipes for low-income New Yorkers, in the 2019 budget. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
The Mayor’s office did not respond to inquiries regarding when the budget would be enacted before press time.
“What does it mean if the city pays for another MTA expense that should be covered by the MTA? And this has happened over and over again, including most recently with the ‘Subway Action Plan,’ which cost us over $400 million,” de Blasio said on the Brian Lehrer Show Friday of his refusal to earmark the $212 million for Fair Fares.
De Blasio turned some of his criticism toward the East Side Access Project, giving the LIRR riders from Queens and Long Island the ability to commute into Grand Central instead of Penn Station.
“When we give money to the MTA as we just did, we need full accounting of what is being done with the money,” de Blasio continued. “We just saw this ludicrous story on the ‘East Side Access Project’ (about) the MTA having a billion-dollar cost overrun. This is yet another cost overrun, yet another delay in a project that seems to just take up money all the time, but yet the state is asking the city to give money to an agency that clearly does not know how to use its money properly and on the right things.”
De Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have dueled over how much, if any, the city would contribute to the Subway Action Plan since it was unveiled in July as a short-term approach to stabilize the meltdown-prone city transit system, which is operated by the state.
But de Blasio was defiant about committing funds until the state budget, passed in April, requiring the city pay up.
Riders Alliance, a transit advocacy group, called on de Blasio to stand with other city leaders and adopt Fair Fares in the budget by pointing out the $212 million initiative would only be a small portion of the “nearly $90 billion budget” de Blasio claimed was driven by the desire to make New York the “fairest big city in America.”
“Speaker Corey Johnson and the City Council made Fair Fares the centerpiece of their response to the mayor’s preliminary budget, but Mayor de Blasio has yet to embrace the idea. The mayor is ignoring the needs of hundreds of thousands of his constituents and the recommendations of several dozens of elected officials, representing hundreds of diverse New York City neighborhoods, who are united for half-price MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers,” the Riders Alliance said in a statement. “In the coming weeks, as we look toward adoption of the budget, the coalition looks forward to working side-by-side with Speaker Corey Johnson and his colleagues to push Fair Fares across the finish line.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall