October 7, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
Brooklyn, NY – Mayor Bill de Blasio may not want to fork over all the money that Governor Andrew Cuomo says is needed to help fill an almost $10 billion budget hole in the MTA’s 5-year capital plan — but the secretary-treasurer of the union representing mass transit workers warns that taxpayers face costly lawsuits if Hizzoner doesn’t come up with the cash soon.
“If the state is saying we’re ready to go, Mr. Mayor — we need you to put in your fair share — then stop playing games,” TWU Local 100 Secretary-Treasurer Earl Phillips told LaborPress on Tuesday. “Do you want the ridership to continue bringing lawsuits against the city?”
Just last month, two riders launched a combined $4 million lawsuit against the city after being involved in a scary southbound G train derailment near Hoyt-Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn. A crumbling subway wall which actually damaged eight other trains, according to amNewYork, was blamed for the accident. Over 80 passengers ultimately had to be evacuated out of the gloom.
Phillips warns that incident could portend more bad things for the city as the union’s 41,000 transportation workers continue to grapple with rapidly aging equipment both in the subway and on the streets.
“There’s a real infrastructure problem going on in the city and this is something the mayor needs to get involved with and be a real part of — and stop trying to believe that TWU Local 100 is about attacking him,” Phillips said. “We’re not here to attack him. We’re not here to attack the governor. We’re here for the betterment of this great city.”
Earlier this week, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez [D-District 10] introduced a spate of forward-thinking initiatives — including the use of wind turbine energy to power trains — that could help modernize the city’s mass transit system.
Phillips, however, says that such improvements have been out of the MTA’s reach for some time now, and will continue to be, as long as funding remains a constant problem.
“We should be in a better position when it comes to technology,” the secretary-treasurer said. “Europe is way ahead of us. What the councilman is speaking about are things we should have been speaking about five or ten years ago — but we can’t because we’re spending so much time just trying to make sure that the subway system is up and running.”
The polluting fleet of aging vehicles currently plying the city’s 2,869 mile-long bus routes, also poses immediate concerns.
“We’re still fighting for buses that should be way ahead in new technology,” Phillips said. “At one stage a couple of years ago, our focus was on hybrid buses. Today, they’re moving away from the hybrids and bringing back the regular diesel buses.”
In addition to contributing to higher asthma rates and more greenhouse gasses, many of the city’s diesel-burning buses are well beyond their 10-year expected life spans.
“Some of these buses go over two million miles, easily,” Phillips said. “They take a beating. We try our best to maintain them, but how long can you maintain old equipment? We’ve got buses that have been on the road for 20 years and that shouldn’t be happening.”
Despite charges that TWU Local 100 is being played against the mayor, Phillips insists that the only thing that matters in the ongoing feud between Cuomo and de Blasio is making sure the MTA’s capital plan is properly funded.
“It’s not a joke,” Phillips said. “It only makes sense — workers are saying that the system is in a great state of disrepair. If the state is putting in its share, we are saying to the mayor, put in your share — do it for the betterment of all.”
The de Blasio administration maintains that the city already provides three-quarters of the MTA’s funding.