State lawmakers call for borough reps on MTA Board

BOROUGHWIDE — A pair of lawmakers from Queens and Brooklyn have sponsored a bill that would add representatives from each of the five boroughs to the MTA board, potentially codifying a proposal from a candidate for Queens borough president ahead of the March 24 special election. 

Queens Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and Brooklyn State Sen. Andrew Gounardes introduced legislation to enable each New York City borough president to appoint one MTA board member on Jan. 24, a few days after Councilmember Costa Constantinides suggested the plan on the campaign trail. 

County executives from seven counties outside New York City currently appoint one representative each to the 21-member MTA board. The mayor of New York City appoints four others. But borough presidents — the equivalent of county executives in New York’s other 57 counties — have no role in the appointment process, though New York City accounts for the vast majority of MTA customers. 

“Borough representation on the MTA board gives riders a voice in the choices that affect them,” Simotas said. “Riders across the city need better transit. Each borough faces unique challenges and it’s time they all have a say in the MTA’s decisions.” 

The proposal comes as Queens residents respond to the MTA’s planned overhaul of the borough’s bus network and as the MTA begins a study on reopening the LIRR Bay Ridge Branch, a dormant train line that runs from Bay Ridge to Astoria.

“We have to make reforms that will change the balance of power within the MTA to increase the influence of those most affected by our mass transit challenges, especially commuters across the boroughs,” Gounardes said. “New York City needs a voice in our own transit system.”

The MTA declined to comment on the legislation.

Constantinides praised the the bill, which he said would correct a system that “allows Putnam County to have more of a say over Queens’s mass transit system than the 2.3 million residents who live here.” 

The bill, he added, is a step toward municipal control of the transit system, and toward a “fairer, more reliable transit network.”

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