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City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on subway station renovation plans: ‘You can’t write a blank check’

Corey Johnson says officials need to make sure funding for any subway system upgrades is “spent the right way.”

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, seen at his

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, seen at his swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 28, 2018, says $1 billion for subway station upgrades is not the best way to prioritize funds. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is siding with Mayor Bill de Blasio on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s controversial plan to remodel subway stations when, critics say, the money should be spent to make the failing system run on time.

Speaking after an address to the Association for a Better New York business leaders’ group, Johnson said, “Before we commit to putting a significant amount of money in for the SAP, Subway Action Plan, we need to ensure the money is going to be spent the right way.”

“You can’t write a blank check,” the speaker, a Democrat, said.

For months, de Blasio has chafed at Cuomo’s demand for city money to split a bailout with the state for the subways. Cuomo controls the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

De Blasio has cited years of state raids on subway money for non-transit purposes.

On Tuesday, Johnson said that $1 billion for station upgrades is not the best way to prioritize funds.

“I agree, actually, with the mayor,” he said. “We’ve only put $1.3 billion into upgrading the signal system from the 1930s.”

Last week, the MTA yanked the station improvements from board consideration after it became obvious that the plan had lost support.

Called the Enhanced Station Initiative, the plan calls for major renovations to six stations in Manhattan and two in the Bronx. The plan, unveiled in 2016 by Cuomo, would implement cosmetic fixes, like USB ports and Wi-Fi access, as well as improve wheelchair access.

Johnson, 35, has made it a point to ride the subway most days — it’s one stop on an express line to his office at City Hall, from his district in Chelsea.


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