For a couple of weeks in early October, the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which I am co-General Counsel of, took out a series of newspaper ads blasting Mayor de Blasio for not committing enough money to the MTA’s ten year Capital Plan, a plan needed to upgrade the infrastructure of the subway system.
The Union’s President, John Samuelsen, went after the Mayor vigorously, and was attacked for doing this by other labor leaders. (The Governor had already outdone the Mayor by committing $8 billion in funding, and supported the Union’s jabs at him.) But the Transit Union understood just how much the City’s share of the tab had dropped since the 1980s and the deleterious effect this had on subway safety.
Before 1975, the bus and subway system was run and funded entirely by the City, which is why it is called the NYC Transit Authority. In 1975 it was taken over by the State as part of the NYC Bailout. But the subways are the lifeblood of New York, and there can be no greater priority than getting New Yorkers to where they need to go quickly and safely.
I am very fond of Mayor de Blasio, but on this one he was wrong, and in the end he committed the City to 2.5 billion to help shore up the system over the next ten years. He added his own caveat, which was a righteous one: every dollar NYC puts in must be spent in NYC, and can’t result in the withdrawal of committed state funds for projects out of the City. He called it a lock box. (TWU had criticized the Governor last year for raiding Transit Funds to pay for other projects.) It was a move by the union and the Mayor which benefits all of us. —Arthur Z. Schwartz