MTA Could Save Millions

According to a group of elected officials, the MTA could save millions by leasing or selling the former NYC Transit headquarters at 370 Jay Street. Matthew Sweeney of AMNY has the story:

When they look at its nearly vacant building at Jay and Willoughby streets in Downtown Brooklyn, some critics of the MTA see an opportunity to help fund the cash-strapped agency.

With another possible fare hike looming as the agency faces soaring budget deficits, the MTA could save about $100 million if it sells or leases eight floors of the 13-story building on 370 Jay Street, a group of elected officials say.

“With the agency facing a capital budget deficit and straphangers continuing to wait for long-promised service improvements, the MTA ought to be leveraging valuable real estate for profit, not letting it sit empty and unused,” City Councilman David Yassky (D- Manhattan) said.

When the MTA board meets next week, it is expected to take some significant steps to cover its budget shortfalls. The agency may propose a fare hike next year to cover the $500 to $700 million hole in its operating budget. And the MTA board is expected to approve $2.7 billion in cuts to subway station repairs and other work as it amends its capital budget for 2005-09.

“We’re watching and we’re worried,” said Gene Russianoff, senior staff attorney for NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign, considering the possibility of an MTA fare hike proposal next week.

The MTA is planning to spend some $150 million from its capital budget over the next several years to renovate and reoccupy the former NYC Transit headquarters above the Jay Street station.

The MTA says that it will save money in the long term by consolidating back office space from other leased properties at the building.

“At a time when the MTA is scrambling to balance its budget — with possible fare hikes and service cuts — it should not waste its resources on building back office for MTA operations,” said Joe Chan, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “They should allow the private sector to step forward and turn what could be a cash drain into a revenue generator.”

Some city and state officials and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership argue that by selling the building or leasing some of its floors the MTA could save $100 million to fund the repair of stations or make other improvements in its capital budget.

Two City Council members and two state Assembly members from Brooklyn have written to former MTA chairman Richard Ravitch to argue that the authority reconsider its plans for the building. Ravitch was appointed by Gov. David Paterson to run a commission charged with finding new sources of funding for the MTA. The Ravitch Commission is expected to have suggestions by Dec.5.

The letter to Ravitch points out that the MTA’s plan would leave 370 Jay Street, already vacant for several years, largely unoccupied until 2016.

The MTA says it can¹t sell the building because the city owns it, and there¹s no space to lease. A source familiar with the building said in the past, the city has put forward the idea to the MTA of selling it.

“We need the whole building,” MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said in an e-mail. “We are emptying the building as we find space so that it can be fully renovated. We have many employees in leased space that will easily fill the building when it is renovated.”

On paper it looks great to save approximately $100 million dollars when a budget deficit could be as much as $700 million. However I worry about elected officials & the MTA themselves implementing stop-gap measures instead of going for more permanent solutions.

I feel the MTA does not need to lease or sell off the building if in the long run it will cost them more money. While it might be nice to get an influx of cash at the current time, it serves no purpose if they end up in a worse state in the future. While it is nice to see elected & MTA officials trying to help starve off a potential fare hike, I urge they do so responsibly.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Woman Saved From Train Tracks

Three days ago, a most likely horrible incident was averted as a Brooklyn woman was saved after falling to the tracks at the Myrtle-Willoughby Avenues station on the G Train line. NY1 has the story:

A woman was rescued after falling onto subway tracks in Brooklyn Tuesday afternoon at around 4 p.m. at the Myrtle and Willoughby Avenue station of the G Train Line in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Officials say the woman was having a seizure at the time she fell.

When emergency medics arrived, they found her lying face-down between the first and second rail.

She was taken to Woodhull Hospital where she was held for observation.

Thankfully a sure disaster was averted.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Metro-North Repairs Lead To Road Detour

The Metro-North division of the MTA issued a press release a few days about repairs that will lead to a road detour in the town of Southeast. Here are the details:

The Town of Southeast will close Prospect Hill Bridge beginning Monday July 21, 2008 so that MTA Metro-North Railroad can repair the 98-year-old bridge.

The 270-foot-long bridge, which was built in 1910 and has a load limit of five tons, carries Prospect Hill Road over the Harlem Line railroad tracks and parts of the Brewster Yard.

Metro-North, in consultation with the Town of Southeast, came up with the shortest possible detour which adds about two miles to the trip, rerouting traffic over to Route 312 to Route 6 to North Main Street.

The bridge will be closed for at least two months as the railroad will be removing concrete to determine the condition of the steel on the truss span. Metro-North welders and masons will be repairing the structural steel of the span.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Port Authority Makes A Questionable Hire

The Port Authority has been known to make their share of questionable decisions. Their most recent qualifies as another one as they hired a former MTA Executive who was fined for taking illegal gifts. This comes on the heels of the Port Authority’s General Inspector recommended he not be hired. Tom Topousis of the New York Post has the story:

A former MTA executive who was fined $10,000 for taking gifts from a contractor doing business with the agency has landed a consulting job at the Port Authority to provide engineering advice at the World Trade Center, The Post has learned.

Joseph Siano, formerly a vice president of MTA Capital Construction, was retained as a consultant this month by the PA after that agency’s inspector general recommended he should not be hired, a source said.

Siano resigned from the MTA in April 2005 after the state Ethics Commission determined he inappropriately accepted a $2,500 ticket to a fund-raiser and $350 in golf and dinner expenses from construction firm DMJM.

The firm has several contracts with the MTA, including design of the Second Avenue subway line, which Siano oversaw.

A PA spokesman said Siano is being paid $115 an hour in consulting fees. A statement from the PA insisted “the highest safety, integrity and ethical standards are in place at the World Trade Center site.”

Siano “will have an arms-length relationship with DMJM,” the statement continued.

DMJM is under contract with the PA to design the WTC transit hub.

You see these are types of decisions made by agencies that showcase why they do not do what is best for the overall picture. Why would you even consider hiring someone who was fined for taking illegal gifts, much less when they will have some sort of working relationship with the company that provided them in the first place? This smells like a back room deal which are never good in the long run.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Federal Government Won’t Bail Out The MTA

As you probably have heard by now, the much hyped Fulton Transit Center is behind schedule & over budget. If the MTA was wishing the federal government would bail them out with this project, they better go back to the wishing well & try again. New York Daily News Transit Reporter Pete Donohue has the story:

The Federal Transit Administration won’t bail out the MTA’s troubled Fulton St. subway hub with an infusion of more money, a top Bush administration official said.

“Absolutely not. That’s capped out,” federal transit Administrator James Simpson said Tuesday when asked if the FTA would increase its commitment for the Fulton Transit Center.

An MTA-FTA funding agreement commits the feds to $819 million. Another $40 million is set aside in reserve funds. Plans call for overhauling the existing Fulton/Broadway/Nassau St. subway complex and creating a grand, domed entrance building with retail space.

In January, MTA officials said they were short $1 billion for expansion projects because of rising costs.

The MTA said work on the underground parts of the project – including a new walkway connecting 11 subway lines downtown – would continue, but it couldn’t afford the above-ground components.

“We are continuing make great progress on underground work …,” MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

One has to seriously wonder if this project will ever be done. The MTA is supposedly $1 billion+ over budget for the project. They can’t make up their mind on what the outside design should look like, & their overall financial picture is as bleak as it has been in ages. This sorely needed project better have 9 lives times maybe 1000 as it will need each & every one of them.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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