Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that the state can commit funds to MTA Chairman Joe Lhota’s proposal to upgrade the city subway system. But Mayor Bill de Blasio retorted that the money to fund the plan is already in Cuomo’s budget.
On Wednesday, Lhota unveiled his NYC Subway Action Plan, an $836 million short-term renewal project. The first phase of the plan focuses on signal and track maintenance, car reliability, system safety and cleanliness, customer communications. It would start immediately and the aim would be to have upgrades done within one year.
The second phase, which will be outlined in the coming weeks, will consist of long-term improvements, including better subway cars, a new signal system and more modern communications technology.
Lhota said the MTA — which is state-run and under Cuomo’s authority — will have to invest $456 million in operating costs right away and make a $380 million capital investment. The immediate plan will cost $836 million, with another $8 billion estimated for long-term initiatives. He proposed that the city and the state each contribute half of the cost of the short-term plan.
Cuomo told Lhota and Transport Workers Union 100 President John Samuelsen that the state is fulfilling its comment.
“You slow down the subway system, you slow down the blood flow in this city,” Cuomo said at the Association for a Better New York’s power breakfast Thursday morning. “That’s why it’s smart. It’s fair, it’s right and at the same time, we are not going to wait for additional promises. I want Mr. Lhota and Mr. Samuelsen to know today I’m making the state’s funds available to begin the transformation of the MTA.”
Cuomo said that the state contributes $8.3 billion to the MTA capital plan, while the city commits $2.5 billion. He also said that the state doles out $5 billion to the annual operating fund, compared to $1.8 billion by the city.
“New York State has invested heavily in the MTA,” Cuomo continued. “We have made historic investments in the MTA. I’ve invested more money in the MTA than any other governor in modern political history and I am proud of it.”
During his speech, he said that the MTA needs help from its partners too, including the NYPD, the FDNY and Con Edison. Although he did not mention de Blasio by name, Cuomo suggested that the city needed to step up and commit to funding the other 50 percent of the funding for the short-term improvements.
“There is no time for delay, and there is no tolerance for lack of commitment on this issue,” Cuomo added. “To me, this is black and white. New Yorkers need help, and they need it now. The fundamental responsibility of government is to respond in a timely and effective way when people need help.”
Less than an hour after Cuomo gave his speech, de Blasio released a missive to the media with an all-caps headline — “THE MONEY FOR THE MTA’S SUBWAY CRISIS PLAN IS IN GOVERNOR CUOMO’S BUDGET” — that also included links to various articles to back up his points.
The mayor’s office noted that since 2011, Cuomo has diverted $456 million of operating money earmarked for MTA riders — $391.5 million from the Metropolitan Mass Transportation Operating Assistance Account and a $65 million reduction in state reimbursements — to the MTA in 2017. He dismissed Cuomo’s assertion that the state contributed $5 billion for operations because it includes $4.7 billion in dedicated taxes for MTA riders from the MTA region, including $2.9 million from New York City residents and $300 million in direct state operating support.
He also called on Cuomo to shift more than $200 million for the light show on the MTA bridges and wondered how much of the $1 billion that Cuomo said the state would contribute to the MTA capital plan would go toward Lhota’s plan.
“This morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo asked New York City to put money into the MTA’s new plan to fix the subways,” the mayor’s office said. “But before he asks hardworking New York City taxpayers to kick in more, the governor should return the money he siphoned away from MTA riders, re-allocate the money he’s using to light up bridges, and fulfill his $1 billion promise.”
Over the weekend, de Blasio rode the F train at the 4th Avenue-9th Street station and reiterated that it’s Cuomo’s responsibility to fix the subway system. Both Cuomo and Lhota have said the mayor shares in accountability over the subway system. This comes after recent train derailments in Harlem and in Brooklyn.
When Lhota unveiled his subway turnaround plan, he said that he would “do everything I can” to convince de Blasio to agree to splitting the $836 million cost of his plan and struck a conciliatory tone, indicating he is “all ears” for any of his concerns.
De Blasio, who outlined his expectations from Lhota’s plan a week before the deadline, said he was “encouraged” by Lhota’s announcement and agreed with the plan’s recommendation for the NYPD, the FDNY and the inclusion of a CompStat-like program. But he noted that he gave the MTA $2.5 billion in capital funding two years and that only $75 million has been spent. He also said that the $456 million in extra resources is already in the state’s reserves.