The plan to make nearly $840 million in short-term fixes to the subway is caught in a political tug of war — one that may end with the MTA walking away from the fight. NY1 Transit Reporter Jose Martinez filed the following report.
Workers now pour into the subway during the overnight hours, making it a hive of activity for a system in a state of emergency.
"It happens every single night. It starts about 10 o'clock at night, and by 5 o'clock in the morning, all the vestiges of work are done," said John Samuelsen, president of the International Transport Workers Union. "It's like 'Brigadoon.'"
The MTA has hired more than 750 workers since July under its so-called "Subway Action Plan" to reduce delays that reached a crisis level over the summer.
The new hires enable the MTA to more frequently repair tracks, signals, and subway cars, and to clear trash from the tracks.
"Instead of people going in who are just working on signals; and then on another day, other people go in and work on the track; and another day, other people go in and work on the water problems — they're converging all at once," MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said.
But transit officials are warning that the work under the $840 million plan will be scaled back unless the de Blasio administration ponies up for half the cost.
"If that's not available, we have to pull back and look at how we prioritize or how we limit or scale down the efforts going forward," said Tim Mulligan, the acting president of New York City Transit.
The dispute is rooted in different proposals by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who oversees the MTA, over how to provide additional money for the transit system.
The mayor is proposing an income tax hike on city residents who earn more than $500,000 a year.
"It would provide, at minimum, half a billion dollars a year to fix the MTA's physical problems," de Blasio said at a press conference with Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday. "That money would be there every single year."
Such a tax increase would need the state's approval, but both the governor and the Republican-controlled State Senate have called it dead on arrival.
Cuomo has proposed a congestion pricing plan that would charge motorists for using the East River Bridges and driving into Midtown or Lower Manhattan — an idea that de Blasio rejects.
The MTA refused again this week to say what projects it would suspend in the absence of city assistance. It remains to be seen if the agency follows through on its threat, which could return the subway to the state of crisis it was in over the summer.
Photo above via the MTA.