Walder: Cuts 'tearing my heart out'
Employees of the TWU held a protest rally on 7th Ave. and 28th Street opposing the MTA's expected transit and service cuts. (RJ Mickelson/amNY)
A visibly shaken Jay Walder said Thursday he’s at a loss about how to fill the MTA giant’s budget gap, comparing it to the crippling deficits of the 1970s.
“It’s tearing my heart out right now,” said the MTA chief, whose voice wavered repeatedly while speaking at a transit event held by the the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA Thursday. “If you ask me now if I know how to close that … new gap, the frank answer is no.”
The MTA has a massive budgetary hole of $750 million, with dozens of proposed service cuts only shaving off $77 million. Letting go more than 1,000 workers and slashing student MetroCards still wouldn’t come close to filling the gap, and Walder doesn’t expect Albany to come through with a bailout.
“Last night at 1 o’clock in the morning I’m turning over in bed trying to figure out how to make the choices,” said Walder, who took over as the MTA chief in September.
Officials completed a series of public hearings on the cuts Thursday, as hundreds of people protested the reductions at a rally in Manhattan. Straphangers spoke against the cuts for six hours earlier in the week at a freezing cold theater in the Bronx, with Walder saying only someone who is “not human” could sit through the testimony without being moved.
“I’m exhausted right now,” Walder said. “I’m feeling it. I’m emotional about it. But I don’t know what the answer is.”
Andrew Albert, chair of the NYC Transit Riders Council, wants Walder to beat the drum louder for funding to stave off the cuts.
“He’s in a very difficult position, but he needs to be a forceful advocate for funding for the transportation system,” Albert said.