NYC Council wades into fight over MTA budget for subway and buses

Council members say the MTA is misleading the public in capital budget fight.

Top City Council members told the MTA Wednesday it was misleading the public in the fight over its capital plan budget, according to a letter sent to the MTA chairman.

“We continue to be dismayed both by the assertion that city taxpayers ought to contribute more than their fare share of the MTA’s capital plan and by the inaccurate information being used to bolster such arguments,” wrote council members Ydanis Rodriguez and Julissa Ferreras in a letter to MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast.

Rodriguez chairs the Transportation Committee, while Ferreras is in charge of the Finance Committee. The MTA originally asked the city to contribute $657 million to its next capital plan, which it agreed to, and is now asking for $3.2 billion. The capital plan pays to keep the subway in good condition, as well as big projects like new stations.

The letter says that there is no basis for the MTA to demand that 11% of its capital budget be funded by the city — and that it paid only 2% of the MTA’s capital plan between 2000 and 2004.

“To put your request in perspective the $3.2 billion you’ve demanded from the city over five years would amount to more than 10% of what the city would typically spend on capital projects over the same period,” the letter ads.

The MTA said the facts in the letter are correct, and that the city’s contribution under Mayor Bill de Blasio would be the lowest percentage than any other mayor in history.

MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said that former Mayor Michael Bloomberg paid more than 11% of the MTA’s capital plan between 2005 and 2009 by building the new No. 7 train extension stop.

“New Yorkers need new subway cars and buses, modern signals, a Second Avenue Subway to East Harlem, new switches, new tracks,” said Lisberg. “But the mayor — and now some key City Council members — are just offering cheap excuses for why they don’t want to pay for it.”

Commuter advocates like the Riders Alliance said despite the storms between the state and city, the MTA is close to paying for the $26.8 billion capital plan. It said the city should pay more, and that the governor should promise that no existing dollars already slotted for new service be used for the deficit.

“Doing so could lead to fare increases and service cuts for riders,” the group said in a statement.

Other labor unions also jumped into the fray Wednesday. The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades joined the TWU Local 100 in criticizing City Hall for not giving the MTA enough money, and called for a $3 billion contribution from the city. The TWU has been running print ads comparing de Blasio to a farebeater, as well as a subway operator in charge of a battered train.

Rebecca Harshbarger