Local leaders called a ceasefire over the weekend over spending on the MTA’s capital plan, with City Hall promising to send $2.5 billion to the transit agency over the next five years.
The New York State will put in $8 billion. The MTA will be responsible for closing the $700 million gap left over from its previous $26.8 billion budget plan proposed in June.
The commitment came about after months of negotiations — both private and in public headlines — between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio over whether or not the city should increase its investment without the state promising to be transparent with the money.
For local advocates, however, the political battle is secondary to what straphangers stand to gain with the budget gap closing, even as details about when the money goes out and where it will come isn’t yet known.
“This is a win for transit riders,” said John Raskin, executive director for the Riders Alliance. “We now have a solid commitment from the governor and mayor that they’re willing to step up and fund these much needed improvements.”
Raskin explained that both the state and city stepping up means riders are saved from having to bear the brunt of paying for new subway cars and new technology by way of fare increases or significant service cuts.
The capital plan specifically includes:
- $1 billion for new buses,
- $1.5 billion to extend the still-underway Second Avenue Subway to East Harlem,
- $2.8 billion for new subway cars, and
- $3 billion to repair older subway stations.
The agreement doesn’t affect an already planned 2 percent hike in transit fares scheduled for 2016.
Transit Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelson, whose group released a series of print ads criticizing de Blasio, said New Yorkers will see “tangible benefits” thanks to the deal.
“Local 100 is absolutely focused and committed to improving the state of good repairs,” Samuelson said. “That’s our bread and butter.”
The union chief praised Cuomo’s work, which he said coupled with union’s ads targeting the mayor put enough pressure on City Hall to increase its commitment from the previous $657 million — an amount that matched the MTA’s request in May before the agency reformulated its budget.
The agreement does, however, cede some ground to de Blasio, whose office demanded a greater degree of transparency and control over how any additional city money is used and that prevents either level of government from transferring dedicated money to other projects.
“It’s a big deal that the mayor was able to get a commitment from the governor,” said Straphangers Campaign attorney Gene Russianoff. “I’ve never head a commitment from the governor that included the ‘d word’ – divert.”
The city, which like the state needs to take stock of where the money it promised will come from, will disburse its money to the MTA after the state does and proportionately.
Cuomo is expected to lay out more details come January, when lawmakers return to Albany and can sort where it will find the money it promised. Meanwhile, the MTA can begin the work it was already scheduled to do with assurances that any money it borrows can be paid back.
“As an advocate, I hope for the best and am on guard for the worst,” Russianoff said. “This is the first plan I’ve seen that finally has the city and state meet their fair shares.”