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Mayor Bill de Blasio can’t run the city and the MTA, too

A self-serving political strategy,

The MTA New York City Subway sign photographed

The MTA New York City Subway sign photographed on Dec. 29, 2017. Photo Credit: Rajvi Desai

Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson aren’t wrong to demand accountability and openness from the MTA. They’re not wrong to want updates on the subway action plan, and details on how the plan’s $836 million — which includes $418 million in city money — is spent.

But the letter de Blasio and Johnson sent to the MTA last week outlining those and other requests reeked of a self-serving political strategy, a way to express that city leaders suddenly will be more aggressive about watching those who run the transit system. After all, the suggestions in the letter were specifically described in the just-approved state budget, and MTA officials have promised they’ll provide updates on the progress of the subway action plan.

Johnson has consistently supported city funding of the subway action plan, and his desire to make sure the city money goes directly to the plan is understandable. But until recently, de Blasio had refused to provide city funds for the action plan. Historically, de Blasio has tried to absolve himself of responsibility for anything related to the subways, even during and after a string of particularly awful incidents last summer. He didn’t show up to the site of a Harlem subway train derailment in June, an incident that injured dozens and, in part, precipitated the action plan that came later that summer. He has said over and over that the state controls the MTA — and he’s right. De Blasio has distanced himself over and over from the crisis, putting the onus for fixing the trains, tracks and signals on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the MTA.

Now, de Blasio has gotten involved, but with demands for the MTA that either are being done or make little sense. The letter suggests the MTA “redeploy staff and resources” from station painting and retiling to signals and tracks. Clearly, the staff who paint stations don’t also repair signals.

De Blasio is right to provide funds for the action plan. But he should stop the political posturing, which isn’t going to fix anything, including the subway system. Repairs are up to the MTA, which is accountable, letter or no letter. Turn down the rhetoric, and let the MTA do its job.


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