On Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio pushed back at assertions from Governor Andrew Cuomo and MTA chairman Joe Lhota regarding who controls the subway—and thus, is ultimately responsible for its swift, inevitable decline in the past few months.
“You've heard a lot of fiction the last few days, so I'm going to give you some facts,” De Blasio told a group of reporters assembled on an F train, which the mayor took for four stops from Park Slope to Downtown Brooklyn.
Those facts, as he put them: “The State of New York is responsible for making sure our subways run,” De Blasio told the assembled crowd. He put it more bluntly a few minutes later: “This is not about the MTA needing more money right now. This is the MTA needing to use its money the right way, spend its money properly on the things that matter.”
And then: “There's lots to be done, but the resources are there. It's about the MTA and the State of New York stepping up, taking responsibility, coming up with a real plan, and fixing things. It's as simple as that.”
New York City’s role in the ownership and operation of the subway system is typically an arcane bit of transit trivia, but the issue has come to the fore as service has gotten measurably worse. Cuomo, who recently declared a “state of emergency” on the subway, has come under fire in the past few months for not moving quickly enough to improve the failing system, and he’s been eager to shift blame for its problems (which include derailments and signal malfunctions, in addition to the usual overcrowding and delays) away from himself and the MTA to the city.
Last week, Lhota asserted that the city has “every role” in ensuring that the subway runs effectively, a comment that De Blasio said “makes no sense.” (Lhota told the New York Times that De Blasio’s comments during his subway presser were “completely disingenuous,” since the MTA is due to unveil a 30-day action plan for the subway sometime this week.)
The mayor also addressed his previous comments that increasing his subway commutes—he typically uses a car to get around the city—would be “cheap symbolism.” With the subway in a state of crisis, he said, “It's important for New Yorkers to know I'm fighting for these changes in the MTA and I'm out there experiencing what they're experiencing. I'm talking to a lot of people on the subway. I'm going to keep doing it.”
Cuomo’s office has, as of this morning, yet to issue a statement on the presser.