Transparency and accountability.
Those were the words used often by Assemblymember William Colton outside the Kings Highway Station on Kings Highway between West Seventh and West Eighth Streets on Weds., Dec.19 when discussing the MTA’s proposed fare increase.
During the conference, Colton called upon New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to launch an audit of the expenditures of the MTA and New York City Transit Authority (NYTC).
Calling it a “crisis,” Colton contended, in front of dozens of protestors, “The history of the NYCTA and MTA has been when you give it billions of dollars, the money ends up being wasted and we cannot afford to repeat that history.
“The system is not safe or reliable and it is not able to maintain itself without a large amount of money, yet there is a fear that the money will be wasted and it will be the riders that will end up having to pay the price in bad service,” he went on. “We need to provide billions of dollars to make up for the past lack of repairs, but we also need to guarantee that that money is going to be used wisely and in a way that is transparent and accountable to the people of New York.”
Local stations serve as case studies in the MTA’s incompetence, Colton contended.
“Kings Highway on the N line was part of a $379 million renovation of seven stations,” he recalled. “ Nonetheless, despite the renovations, which date back only about six months, “When you go in, this station has leaks, it has mold growing on the wall. Yes, it has very new and expensive monitors and cameras and sensors and countdown clocks, and right on top of them are leaks. Now I have been assured by the Transit Authority that they are going to repair those leaks by February. But how can we spend $379 million on seven stations and find them in this condition? That is a total waste of money.”
It’s that sort of waste that Colton hopes to short-circuit by involving the two comptrollers.
“Currently, under state and city law, the New York City comptroller and the New York State comptroller have the power to audit the MTA,” Colton said. “They have performed audits in the past but they have done it after the money has been wasted. I am calling on both comptrollers to audit the MTA on an ongoing basis before the money is wasted in bad projects, bad ideas, bad contractors, and bad decisions.”
He added that if the comptrollers are unwilling or don’t have the resources to do it, then in any bill which provides any more money for the MTA, there must be an alternative.
“There must be a group set up that will audit the MTA on an ongoing basis,” Colton asserted. “Whatever money is taken from the city and the state must be spent wisely and that must include a mechanism that prevents the waste of those moneys before billions of dollars have been lost and the system is still not reliable or dependable.”
Locals also chimed on the possible fare hikes.
“I’ve lived in this neighborhood for about 45 years,” said Tim Law. “I’ve been using this subway station almost every day. It is in bad shape. Now, in March, they want to raise our fare to $3. Five days, it would cost $30. That’s a lot of money.”
He contended that straphangers should know where the money is being spent, and suggested a town hall or public hearing.
Ansen Tang stressed that the stations were particularly dangerous for older residents. “They fall down because they step on water,” he said. “It’s too dangerous to go downstairs.”