As Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio squabble over plummeting subway service, MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said Thursday the agency plans to ask the city for more money for improvements.
The request for additional funding will come late next week, after Lhota unveils his 30-day report on reorganizing the agency.
But before doing so, both Cuomo and Lhota went to lengths to paint the city into a corner. The two spoke at separate events Thursday to remind New Yorkers that New York City Transit, which oversees the subway and bus systems, may be operated by the state-run MTA, but it is owned by the city, as per an agreement that dates back to the branch’s founding in 1953.
“There’s going to be need for additional resources,” Lhota said. “With that, I fully expect the owner and operator of the New York City Transit Authority will come to the table.”
The subway has experienced soaring delays in recent years and a series of high-profile failures of late as it grapples to provide quality service with ancient signaling equipment and track infrastructure. In June, Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the agency and directed Lhota to conduct reviews on MTA operations and capital needs.
On Thursday, Cuomo said the city has a “legal obligation” to fund the aging subway system, even though the governor has claimed in previous years that the state has control.
“It’s the city’s legal obligation to be funding the subway system even though we stepped in on a moral level,” he said.
Austin Finan, a spokesman for the mayor, said Lhota and Cuomo’s history lessons were simply “diversions.” He pointed out that the city has already contributed $2.5 billion for the MTA’s current five-year capital plan.
“New Yorkers need serious leadership at a time like this,” Finan said in a statement. “The city’s unprecedented $2.5 billion investment in the state-run MTA capital plan is far in excess of any legal obligation. Let’s stop the diversions and obfuscation and start spending the resources the MTA has on the repairs and maintenance that will keep New Yorkers moving.”
Dani Lever, a spokesman for the governor, later elaborated on Cuomo’s comments, saying the state has contributed $8.3 billion to the MTA’s capital plan, “even though the city has the sole legal obligation to fund subway capital improvements.”
“The Lhota report will tell us how much more funding we need and the city should join the state so we can deliver for New Yorkers,” Lever added.
The remarks from Lhota and Cuomo come after nearly two days of intense feuding between the mayor and governor over who is responsible for the failure to deliver quality subway service. Lhota, who was appointed by the governor, maintained that his comments weren’t simply the “recitation of the law,” but a way to “do everything (he) can to fix the subways.”
“And at this point of time, do to deterioration, we’re going to need additional funding,” he said. “And it would be good for the elected officials to come to the table on behalf of their constituents, plain and simple.”
It’s not immediately clear how much money Lhota will be requesting from the city and the state, or if there will be compliance.