In a story in today’s New York Times, new MTA chief Joe Lhota and Harlem State Senator Bill Perkins seemed to have a very different understanding of their relationship.
Both have a history of trying to tackle the city’s rat problem, and “In November 2000, Mr. Perkins, then a city councilman, held a so-called rat summit at Columbia University that Mr. Lhota spoke at. Mr. Perkins said that back then they spoke frequently about issues of rat removal, and he credits Mr. Lhota with helping make the rat conference happen.”
The two dined at Sylvia’s in Harlem earlier this month. Mr. Perkins has a bill that would levy a fine for anyone caught eating on the subways. Mr. Lhota thinks that such punitive measures are unnecessary, and for that matter, so is Mr. Perkins.
“The idea that we worked together in the past goes far beyond the reality,” Mr. Lhota told the paper. “As a legislator, he does nothing but talk and talk and talk, and he does nothing.”
Mr. Perkins’ fellow lawmakers quickly rallied to his defense. Sen. Adriano Espaillat released a statement calling on Mr. Lhota to focus “on improving subway services, not taking on elected officials,” he said. “Last I checked, it was part of the MTA commissioner’s job to collaborate, not pick fights with state legislators. Commissioner Lhota’s remarks in the New York Times are immature and counterproductive. Whether or not you agree with Senator Perkins’, or any other senator’s legislation, it’s inappropriate to level personal attacks, instead of focusing on the issues. I urge Commissioner Lhota to offer Senator Perkins and apology and get back to work, fixing the MTA.”
And now Mr. Lhota does indeed seem to have recognized the error of his ways.
“I would like to apologize to Senator Perkins for my comments in the NY Times today,” he said in a statement. “Bill is an excellent legislator with great constituent services, and I share his commitment to addressing the problem of rat proliferation in New York City. Though we agree on many rat related issues, we disagree on banning food on the subways. I have a great deal of respect for Senator Perkins.”