Wednesday, December 10, 2008

MTA: Hold That Fare Hike

We've been carping about the MTA bailout plan-particularly the part where the East River bridges get tolled. In this morning's NY Daily News, Julia Vitullo-Martin makes an important point about the authority-no more money until the agency accounts for all of its property-and, hopefully, sells it: "Before the state raises everyone's taxes to support the bloated Metropolitan Transportation Authority, shouldn't we first insist that the MTA take advantage of any and all underused real estate that it already owns or controls under long-term leases?"

There's no reason why the MTA should be allowed to continue to hoard valuable real estate, while New Yorkers are being asked to pony up; and, as we've underscored, the entire authority should be scoured before another nickel is extorted from the tax payers.

The issue of the MTA's malfeasance was raised by the NY Times during the congestion tax fight. Now we find that the authority's waste is being given a free pass: "The crown jewel of underused property - standing in shocking deterioration for all to see - is the 13-story Board of Transportation Building at 370 Jay St., on top of Brooklyn's Jay St.-Borough Hall subway station...Owned by the city but operated under a long-term lease to the MTA, 370 Jay St. has been nearly vacant for several years, even as respectable groups like the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership have sought to lease it."

All of this is what someone calls, "legacy real estate." But we don't need an agency with an edifice complex, we need one that is operated efficiently-especially before we ask the folks to pony up more. As Vitullo-Martin indicates: "The MTA must sell off all its excess real estate and consolidate its operations as much as possible at its sprawling East New York, Brooklyn, complex, which is well-served by elevated trains, subways and buses. Just why are MTA headquarters located in one of the world's most expensive neighborhoods anyway? Taxpayers are entitled to an accounting before they are asked to bear yet another set of fare and tax increases."

All of this should be part of the debate on the Ravitch Commission report, one that asked much of others but comparably little of a poorly run or supervised agency. This should be a major issue for the legislature come January.