Millman Slams MTA for Poor Management; Favoring Suburban Commuters

BHB photo by C. Scales

State Assembly Member Joan Millman, whose district includes Brooklyn Heights, testified Tuesday night at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s public hearing. She sharply criticized MTA management for focusing on fare increases and service cuts to solve the Authority’s fiscal problems instead of rectifying what she said are serious management deficiencies that are costing the MTA “hundreds of millions of dollars each year” according to a report issued by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. One of several areas in which Millman said the MTA could save money is in its management of real estate, pointing in particular to the huge office building at 370 Jay Street (photo above) which has sat unused and in a partial state of rehabilitation for years.

Millman also noted the MTA’s sale of the Atlantic Yards property for less than half of its appraised value, and its failure to demand that developers of new, large residential buildings along the Fourth Avenue corridor provide funds to assist in the rehabilitation of subway stations along the corridor affected by increased ridership. Finally, noting that she voted against repeal of the commuter tax, which was levied on suburbanites who work in the City in order that they pay their share of the cost of the City’s subway and bus systems, Ms. Millman accused the MTA of subsidizing commuter rail lines serving the suburbs “at the expense of hardworking New Yorkers.”

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  • Paco

    She’s right about that building sitting unused for too long. But even if that was fixed and rented out for an exorbitant price… it would be band aids patching bullet holes. The MTA deficits run into the BILLIONS, and the capital budget isn’t at all properly funded. Sitting on the Transportation Committee of the Assembly, it’s good that she’s calling them out on shortfalls, but she’s also got to find a way to plug the budgetary shortfalls her colleagues haven’t helped with.

  • epc

    You know, the MTA would be in better shape had the Assembly not “shifted” millions of dollars in revenue raised through the MTA Payroll tax to the general fund.

    Or if Pataki and Giuliani hadn’t forced it to use debt to pay for operations costs in the 1990s and early 2000s.

    Or if the City resumed paying in its former share of the MTA budget.

    More and more I think the MTA would be better off if it were privatized. Fares would be $7-$10 but we would end this silly finance fantasy game in Albany. Everyone expects someone else to pay for the service.

  • Dorothy Daniela Josephs

    Privatization of the MTA would cause even more CEO abuse. Good for Millman for saying it like it is. We are many of us appalled by the undervalue sale of the Atlantic Yards to a billionaire developer while the peoples fares were raised and MTA booth workers lost their jobs and busses were cut. All of these cuts effect the WORKERS of the city who are struggling to earn enough to live at all in this overpriced market. Joan Millman has said it like it is. FAT CAT ABUSE OF PERKS AND HIGH SALARIES AT THE TOP, AND SWEETHEART DEALS FOR DEVELOPERS, AND WASTE AND INEFFICIENCY MAKES THE PEOPLE SUFFER MTA mismanagement. Mayor Bloomberg is good in many areas, but he, like Markowitz, imagine that over-development is the answer to city management and to hell with quality of life issues. Develop, develop is not the answer! Rehabilitate, conservation, green jobs are the answer in this OVERLY POPULATED, TRAFFIC STRANGLED AREA OF THE WORLD.
    What, please tell, was going on with that DETOUR DISASTER coming back over the Brooklyn Bridge on Tuesday early eve. The detour signs led us all in a circle for hours with no way over The Bridge. It was absurd. The signage was a farce and cars just kept going in a circle with Chambers St. closed and the detour street closed, too! It was a horror trying to get my husband home from the hospital. He was in agony while the orange detour signs in lower Manhattan led us round and round in traffic clogged circle of the streets of lower Manhattan with no way over The Brooklyn Bridge. Finally, after circling in congested circles, following the absurd signage, we drove back up town and over the Manhattan Bridge. What was that about? Anyone know? It was a traffic farce. I am so disgusted with over development which is not the answer to city prosperity and quality of life. Stop piling people on top of each other in high rises! It’s insane, like over populating a bee hive until all the drones die. STOP OVER DEVELOPMENT by FAT CAT developers! We need conservation, green jobs, and LESS DEVELOPMENT of high-rises. What we need is more parks, more rehabilitation of human sized buildings, GREEN SOLUTIONS, and BETTER MASS TRANSIT!!!!!

  • epc

    If you cut every single 100k+ year job at the MTA it would barely cover a few hours of operating expenses.

    If you followed various Albany politicians “ideas” to shift the MTA’s capital budget over to cover operating expenses you’ll 1) help kill future MTA riders by damaging the infrastructure and 2) only add to the continuing disaster started in the 1990s by using debt to cover operating expenses.

    Someone has to pay for mass transit, either riders or taxpayers. Who’s going to do it? Hell, make the “fat-cat” developers pay for it.

    Amazing what lengths people go to impugn the MTA leadership while holding the Albany politicians — who 1) appoint them and 2) constantly play budget games — blameless.

    If you want to raise your head out of the sand, look to or for more realistic coverage of the MTA.

    The MTA has many flaws, many, many flaws. But it has very critical problems and continuing to carp on about “separate books” or shifting capital investment to operating expenses, or Walder’s salary (really: know anyone who’d willingly step into this minefield for LESS than what he’s making? Seriously?) helps none of us.

  • Terrapin_Station really not a good website… go to which has a lot more knowledge people who hate mta more.

  • Obama?


    If you & others continue being apologists for the outrageous, out-of-control MTA, nothing will change!!!

  • Nathan H.

    Yes, until epc joins the 99.9% of New Yorkers who know far less about public transit’s finances than he has shown in these two comments, nothing will change. We must reach 100% uninformed cynicism to get to the promised land.

    That how the handful of outspoken opponents to Albany’s little puppet show are in fact to blame for it. Good stuff!

  • nicole shaffer

    @epc – defend your stance on why condo developers along 4th avenue should not beheld financially accountable for the extra riders? This seems obvious to me, a 4th avenue resident who’s seen the massive increase in subway crowdness in the past few years due to these developemnts, especially after cutting an entire service line & fare increase this year. Defend it, and then maybe I’ll give you credit for the rest of your argument.

  • Sid

    It was the Dems that did away with the commuter tax to get the county exec elected in Westchester. Good political theater- lousy policy and its the state that has been paying less every year….

  • Car Free nation

    So ironic. Millman doesn’t support congestion pricing and then complains about the MTA. She could have given the MTA a serious steady set of income, but instead, was afraid of pissing off the car owners.

    She wants her cake and wants to eat it to. I thought this would be her saying the real thing is to raise the tolls, but no! Just blaming the victim.

  • epc

    The notion that the MTA somehow had a responsibility to demand subsidies from developers is anchored in the fantasy that the MTA has any legal authority to do so. There is no process under either NYC zoning laws, development law, or NY State law, for the MTA to demand anything from developments within the city.

    The MTA is wholly, legally, separate from the City. If you want developments to subsidize the MTA, then you need to go after the City. The MTA is legally prohibited from going after specific developers or developments.

    Now, the City certainly could have assessed any new developments a fee which could be then used to pay the MTA, but it didn’t. And over the last 20 years the City has consistently dropped the amount of money it pays the MTA, all the while its politicians and citizens whine that the MTA is cutting back services.

    Everywhere else in the state, local school districts pay for their own transportation. In NYC the MTA is somehow supposed to eat the cost, hence this past year’s eruption over student Metrocards.

    Could the MTA be run better? Certainly, as could any large organization. Any of you who work in organizations, be they private companies or units of government know full well that the larger the organization is, the more slop and corruption that exists.

    But you are just ignoring reality if you only go after the MTA when it’s the City and State which have cut back millions of dollars of subsidies over the last twenty years, millions of dollars of your tax money which were diverted into the general fund to pay for everything under the sun EXCEPT the original purpose.

    Take the payroll tax which has suburban NYC in revolt over the MTA — it was intended to help fund the MTA, instead millions of dollars raised through the “MTA tax” are getting diverted back into the general fund.

    This is like arguing with the people who believe that Obama magically ran up trillions of dollars of debt in his first hours in office. No wonder Albany is such a mess, you keep reelecting the people who have put the State into this hole and are surprised that the hole just keeps getting deeper.

  • nabeguy

    nicole, how dare you expect developers to contribute to any infrastructure enhancements, including those to their own benefit.

    Millman is using the Jay Street issue as political fodder to gang up on the MTA, but, hell, isn’t everyone doing that? Jay Walder might as well change his name to Darth Vader. Given the fact that this property has been unused for “years”, isn’t it a bit suspect that it’s just come up on her radar, especially given that it’s in her district?

  • Johnny

    If Millman cares so much about public transportation then why was she against congestion pricing and tolling East River bridges? She doesn’t want to take the tough votes that might anger a minority of car commuterse; she just wants to complain.

    Rep. Millman has been in the Assembly for a long time, if things aren’t working then she needs to take some responsibility for her votes.


    Putting tolls on the East River bridges is just a nightmare to enact. The traffic backups would cripple all the traffic in downtown Brooklyn extending into Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill.

    Congestion pricing is definitely a good idea.

  • Obama?

    Nathan H.,

    How can any citizen, including epc, purport to know about the MTA’s finances when they admit to keeping 2 sets of books (or more)???

    One thing I see is the fare continually going up, with service staying the same or going down! Most people in this city are not rich Brooklyn Heights yuppies who can afford these fares & poor service!

    I’ve had enough of people citing “bureaucracy” as a means to excuse or apologize for corruption!

  • epc

    The two books thing. Again.

    And over here gentlemen, I have the collateralized debt of a lovely bridge I’d like to sell you an option on.

    This two books crap gets brought up in every discussion about the MTA.

    Show me the money, where’s the links to Jay Walder’s testimony to “two books”. Not any previous heads of the MTA, whom we’ve summarily executed (politically) as the latest-and-greatest way to solve the fact that it costs more to run the transit system than anyone is willing to pay for, via any means.

  • Chris

    >>Putting tolls on the East River bridges is just a nightmare to enact.

    Nonsense. They can use electronic tolls like Ontario has ALREADY BEEN DOING FOR 15 YEARS on Hwy. 407. That way nobody has to slow down to pay a toll.

  • Alex

    to Thomas J. Hillgardner.
    Do you even know how many cars in Mongolia?
    That was pretty bad example and to compare NYorkers to a cockroaches is only MTA fat cat could do.

    Lets try one more time.
    IRS reported 12 million people make money in NYC.
    Basically to work in NYC you need to get here. Unless you have limo or a chopper..
    Lets say that 2 million do, which will leave us with 10 millions who does uses MTA on daily basis…

    How much money will it give to MTA? Well over 10 billions per year from subways and buses alone. How much from bridges and tunnels? More then enough to pay $300 for toilet seat replacement.
    And how much do we really paying now for metro card, considering fact that MTA getting free money from government (read from taxes therefor from our packets)?

    Unfortunately we do not know exact amount of money funneling into MTA from Albany and City, but if it is around only $800 mill then fare for a single ride for each of 10 million riders will be north of $2.75…

    Well, let see how much we will pay next year if nobody here to stop MTA corruption.