Gov. Cuomo announced a new $ 1 billion infusion of state funds to repair the broken Metropolitan Transportation Authority — and bail out its beleaguered riders.
“New York is going to put its money where its mouth is … so the MTA has the resources to get this done,” Cuomo declared Thursday, even as hundreds of Long Island commuters were stranded by a stalled train.
Cuomo said his newly appointed MTA Chairman Joe Lhota was given 30 days to completely reorganize the troubled mass transit agency.
“Starting with a blank sheet of paper … design an organization that performs the function rather than the organization that exists today,” the governor said.
“We are going to commit to an additional $ 1 billion in the capital plan,” he added.
The MTA’s current woes, said Cuomo, were the end result of “a long-standing bureaucracy that has has evolved over time.”
As part of the overhaul, Cuomo will sign an executive order declaring a state of emergency in the MTA.
The move will allow the agency to cut through red tape in its efforts to quickly right its subways, trains and buses.
“It will no longer be a tortured exercise to do business with the MTA,” promised Cuomo.
E.J. McMahon, founder and research director of the independent Empire Center for Public Policy, said Cuomo still needs the Legislature to sign off on his spending plan.
“Promising a billion is just words,” said McMahon. “No matter how powerful the governor, he can’t give anyone a billion without an appropriation.”
Though the Legislature was in Albany this week, Cuomo did not ask for any MTA appropriation.
McMahon and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) suggested redirecting $ 5 million of the money collected in state settlements with the financial sector toward mass transit and infrastructure projects.
“He’s sitting on a big pile of cash,” said McMahon.
The governor also vowed to hold other agencies responsible for problems in MTA operations.
“If there’s a power outage and Con Ed is responsible, they are going to be fined heavily for the delays they have been causing New Yorkers,” he said.
Con Ed released a statement saying the utility is “working closely with the MTA to address any service or equipment issues involving the electric grid and the subways.”
Cuomo made his comments at the Genius Transit Challenge, an international competition offering $ 1 million for answers to the myriad mass transit problems.
The “current state of decline is wholly unacceptable,” the governor said.
Two days earlier, 34 city straphangers were injured when an A trail derailed due to an unsecured 13-foot piece of steel rail stored against regulations on the track, officials said.
The governor said that in addition to the reorganization plan, he asked Lhota to deliver an equipment review in 60 days and a review of transit power failures in 90 days.
“We are going to do a top to bottom analysis of the entire system,” said Lhota, who joined Cuomo at the event. “We are going to come up with a long-term plan, a detailed long-term plan, to overhaul the organizational structure and modernize the entire subway system.
“No idea is too crazy, no idea is too ambitious.”
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) wondered why this mass transit issue wasn’t addressed earlier this week when Cuomo ordered the Legislature back into session.
“What have we done the last two days about (the MTA)?” Gianaris asked on the floor of the Senate. “The answer is nothing. It’s pathetic. Is that not extraordinary?”
Long Island State Sen. Kemp Hannon applauded Cuomo’s call for a $ 1 billion upgrade.
“Declaring an MTA state of emergency is the right action at the right time — not a moment too soon,” said Hannon (R-Nassau). “The MTA’s infrastructure is in desperate need of repairs and upgrades.”