crossed tracks

State Pols Hold Rare Transit Hearing at Same Time as Monthly MTA Meetings

An MTA worker walks along the D train tracks in Borough Park, Brooklyn, Nov. 4, 2019.
An MTA worker walks along the D train tracks in Borough Park, Brooklyn, Nov. 4, 2019. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

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They’re going to need a shuttle.

Top transit officials will testify Tuesday morning in Lower Manhattan before state lawmakers about the MTA’s largest-ever capital spending plan — while the agency holds key monthly meetings three subway stops away.

MTA Chairman Patrick Foye, Chief Financial Officer Robert Foran and Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber are scheduled to be quizzed about the proposed $51.5 billion five-year capital plan at a joint state Senate and Assembly oversight hearing at 250 Broadway.

But that 10:30 a.m. event bumps up against the MTA’s monthly committee meetings at 2 Broadway about subway and bus service, agency finances and capital projects. The MTA committee meetings run from 8:30 a.m. until well into the afternoon.

‘Not Ideal’

“It’s not ideal for the advocacy community and the press to be spread thin between the oversight hearing and the MTA committee meetings,” said Rachael Fauss of Reinvent Albany, a watchdog group. “Preferably, they would have been held on separate days.”

Spokespeople for the state lawmakers did not respond to requests for comment on the timing of the joint hearing.

The legislative gathering is intended to examine the MTA’s proposed 2020-2024 capital plan, which is the biggest and most ambitious in the history of the regional transportation authority.

The bulk of the capital plan — $37 billion — is geared toward fixing the subway, with signal upgrades planned along six lines, 1,900 new subway cars set to come into service and 66 more stations on tap for elevators or ramps to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A Rare Transit Hearing

Advocates said state lawmakers have been lax in their role as MTA watchdogs. The Assembly hasn’t held an MTA oversight hearing since 2014. In February, the state Senate’s transportation committee held its first non-budget-related MTA hearing in five years.

“In order for the capital plan to succeed, the legislature has to play a much more active role this time around,” said Danny Pearlstein of the advocacy group Riders Alliance. “There’s been a sort of kick-the-can mentality about the transit system for too long.

“But it’s important for the legislature to serve as an outside check on the capital plan, to make sure progress is happening,” he added.

Lawmakers announced the joint hearing on Nov. 8. The MTA usually holds committee and board meetings on the third Monday and Wednesday of each month, except August. This month’s schedule, however, was altered by Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.

“Through hearings like this, we will forge greater transparency, accountability and stakeholder participation in decision-making and policy creation at the MTA,” State Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Queens), who chairs the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee that oversees the MTA, said in a statement last week.

Reinvent Albany is pushing for MTA oversight hearings twice a year.

“For a capital plan of this size and magnitude, they need to be doing regular oversight of the MTA,” Fauss said. “You can’t just swoop in every five years and expect to have good oversight.”

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