Stringer Calls MTA Request for $1.3 Billion From City ‘Insulting’

"Don't play games with our subway system," Scott Stringer told Thomas Prendergast and the MTA.

Comptroller Scott Stringer. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
Comptroller Scott Stringer. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images) Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Comptroller Scott Stringer labeled MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast’s request that the city chip in an additional $1.3 billion into the transportation authority’s capital budget “insulting,” arguing that the subways are in appalling condition and that the the MTA should seek the money from the state.

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Releasing an report excoriating the cleanliness of the train system, Mr. Stringer lambasted the MTA today for asking the city for $1 billion toward the construction of the Second Avenue subway and $300 million a year for the general construction fund—a massive increase from the city’s current annual input of $100 million. The comptroller, charged with overseeing the city’s finances, blamed Albany and Washington for not providing adequate funding to the train system and attacked Mr. Prendergast’s request as “last minute.”

“I found it insulting that the head of MTA would turn around and ask for a billion dollars when the state has basically abdicated its responsibility for funding the transit system,” he told reporters. “So if you want a billion from the city, what did you ask the state for? Don’t play games with our subway system.”

Mr. Stringer conceded that the city, currently flush with funds as tax revenues exceed expectations, has a responsibility to kick in more money for MTA—but not as much as Mr. Prendergast asked.

“The state and the federal government has failed to adequately fund the MTA. Yes, the city can and should do more. We certainly need that to happen,” he said. “That’s a legitimate discussion through the budget process, there is added money to the budget, can certainly debate how much is enough.”

Mr. Stringer’s audit found that the MTA’s FastTrack maintenance system often touched up stations that had no complaints about paint. His office also found that, of the system’s two trackbed-cleaning vacuum cars, one was out of order for nearly a year and the other often failed to pick up trash along the rails—resulting in extensive rat infestations and what he called a “flashback to the 1970s” in certain stations.

The comptroller highlighted the importance of the train system to the city’s economic vitality.

“I think it’s time for everyone to get around a table, upstate, downstate, suburbia, and recognize that what fuels the economic revitalization of the city is our ability to access our jobs and work through our subway system,” he said.

The MTA, a state authority run by appointees of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, noted it was in the process of purchasing more vacuum trains and increasing funding for maintenance and had created a new “systematic cleaning frequency” for train stations. It fired back bitterly at Mr. Stringer’s criticism of Mr. Prendergast’s funding request, pointing out that the state committed $1 billion to the MTA capital budget for the coming year, and said the authority is seeking funds from numerous public and private sources to fill its $14 billion gap.

“Anyone who believes New York City shouldn’t help pay to build a new subway line in East Harlem should at least refrain from denigrating our attempts to do so,” a spokesman told the Observer.

Updated to include comment from the MTA.

Stringer Calls MTA Request for $1.3 Billion From City ‘Insulting’