We the People: Next stop on the “Money Train”

The MTA (More Trouble Ahead) is sending its “Money Train” out, looking to shake down the taxpayers of New York once again. The entity has a $34 billion debt which eclipses the national debt of over 30 countries. The chair announced a $15 billion shortfall in its capital budget.

Now, good-hearted but short-sighted people are calling for tolls on the East River bridges to bring revenue to the terminally profligate MTA. The haphazard manner in which it conducts business means that no matter how much money it has, it will always need more to maintain service.

The MTA had a headquarters in downtown Brooklyn at 370 Jay Street. The building was custom-built to be a transportation headquarters in 1950. There are large garages, a revenue collection area, special tunnels and storage spaces under the facility. Its 500,000 square feet of custom designed space cost the MTA $1 a year in rent to the city.

The MTA abandoned it more than 10 years ago. It is a derelict eyesore in an otherwise vibrant downtown community. There are two high-rise hotels being built within a token’s throw of the building but the MTA and the city want to leave it unused or give it away for nothing.

The MTA pays for scaffolding to enshroud the vacant building. When it abandoned the  building in 2005, it moved to pay rent at 2 Broadway in Manhattan. Some guesstimate that the more than $2 billion could have been saved on the 2 Broadway lease if the MTA just moved back to 370 Jay Street.

Who needs $2 billion? The MTA loves to throw money away so it paid a contractor, Alex Figliolia, millions to redo the plumbing at 2 Broadway until the feds prosecuted him for ripping off the MTA for the work. Not a problem. The MTA can just take more money from the public.

The MTA and the city announced years ago that 370 Jay Street would be given to NYU. Why the city or the MTA would support a giveaway of this valuable public asset is worthy of further investigation.

In Albany, approximately 13,000 people marched to demand better schools for New York students. They want the school system to undergo a “bold, structural change to give every child access” to excellent schools. They strongly support charter schools and a decentralization of school power.

We have tried that in the past. It had its own problems. Some critics describe the current education system as an “unaccountable monopoly” hampered by “odious union contracts” but I know those marchers are not looking for a laissez faire education system.

How will the highest need students be helped in a “competitive” atmosphere? Are we to abandon the most challenged and weak students along the way? That may have worked for ancient Sparta but that is not an answer at all.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress at the invitation of John Boehner and the Republican majority in Congress. It is good to debate strategies to end violence in the Middle East and how to deal with the nuclear threat in Iran, but foreign policy must be conducted from the White House with the involvement of the Congress and not the other way around.

In Israel, a Palestinian man plowed his vehicle into a group of people at a border check point in East Jerusalem. He was shot and critically injured upon exiting the car and brandishing a knife. He posted a photo of himself covered in a Palestinian flag on Facebook — with the words: “In the name of Allah and the homeland” — according to local newspapers.

When cooler heads can come together and find a way for responsible voices to be heard above the thunder of hateful rhetoric, we may be able to fashion a peace that lasts and allows sons to bury their fathers instead of the other way around.

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