Last June, with only a few weeks before the end of the 2015 New York State legislative session, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio nominated three fresh faces for the MTA Board of Directors, which were submitted to the State Senate for confirmation by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Within two weeks, the Senate voted to confirm one of Governor Cuomo’s two nominees who was submitted around the same time at the city’s nominations. The Senate also confirmed MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast for a full six-year term, but the chamber finished the session without taking a vote on any of Mayor de Blasio’s picks — David Jones of the Community Service Society of New York, City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, and Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool. Now, almost a year later, the city’s representatives are still waiting in limbo.
New York City is supposed to have four of the 17 seats on the MTA board. Today, the city has one active voting member: Polly Trottenberg, the city’s Transportation Commissioner. John Banks and Jeffrey Kay — still technically on the board — are holdovers from the Bloomberg administration. The other seat has been vacant since early 2015 when former Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall quietly resigned from the board after just a few months.
The missing representation is especially problematic when you consider that over 93 percent of the MTA’s ridership is on New York City Transit subways and buses, the MTA Bus Company and Staten Island Railway. The suburban counties served by Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road have as many votes as New York City, but those systems account for less than 7 percent of total ridership. New York City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer thinks the city ought to have not only a full four-person slate, but the majority of the MTA’s board seats.
Nobody can fault the Senate for wanting to do their “due diligence,” but how can 10 months not be enough time to vet a handful of appointees?
We certainly hope this isn’t the result of a political spat between city and state leaders. Either way, it’s not fair for New York City transit riders to pay the price for endless delay.