Council expands MetroCard benefit, lowers speed limit

Two children were killed in a house fire in St. Albans on Monday night, Oct. 6, 2014, fire officials say.
Two children were killed in a house fire in St. Albans on Monday night, Oct. 6, 2014, fire officials say. Photo Credit: Image Comics

The City Council Tuesdayexpanded a tax benefit for buying MetroCards to almost about 450,000 more New Yorkers.

Commuters can already use their pre-tax salary to get MetroCards if their employer signed up with the federal benefit, but companies must participate on their own, meaning some workers are unaware of the perk.

A rider who makes the city’s median income, of around $50,000, and buys a 30-day unlimited MetroCard each month, which costs $112, could save $443 a year, according to the Riders Alliance, a grassroots transit group that backed the bill.

“It’s a great program that encourages mass transit use, but for too many New Yorkers, they are simply shut out from this program,” said Councilman Dan Garodnick, who was the lead sponsor of the bill..

The legislation would require, starting in 2016, companies with at least 20 employees to offer the tax benefit, which is often handled through a private company such as TransitChek. Companies that fail to offer the benefit will get a 90-day window to fix it or get an initial $100 fine.

Jeanmarie Theobalds, a freelance oral historian who also works for a small company, has the benefit through a job at a small firm. She said the tax break eases the cost of other expenses, such has health insurance.

“A basic benefit such as transit should be something that is included,” said Theobalds, a Riders Alliance member.

Employers would also get a break on taxes they pay on the size of their payroll, lessening the financial burden for signing up.

William Clark, president of Lisa Management, which handles residential property, said the requiring the tax benefit is not much of a hassle as compared to other regulations coming from City Hall.

“My company is not even large enough to be required, but I insist on it for my employees since I got there,” Clark said at a news conference.

Meanwhile, the council also voted to lower the citywide speed limit to 25 mph after the state gave the city authority. The lower limit, which does not affect state-owned roads and expressways, is a key part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero street safety agenda. The law will go into effect Nov. 4.

“New Yorkers must drive slower and safer if we’re going to save lives and achieve Vision Zero,” Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the transportation city said in a statement.

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