This Op-Ed by Nicole Malliotakis originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter
A few weeks ago, the MTA unveiled its 2015 Capital Plan. Despite its $32 billion price tag, projects important to Southwest Brooklyn and the outer boroughs are, once again, nowhere to be found. Fortunately, the MTA Capital Review Board rejected the proposal and it has been returned to the drawing board.
It is a well-known fact that Brooklynites and Staten Islanders have long funded the MTA by virtue of tolls they pay on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. (If you haven’t yet, please sign the petition I created with State Senator Marty Golden at www.TheTollsAreTooDamnHigh.com.)
The Verrazano generates an annual profit of about $250 million. But that profit is used to fund other parts of the MTA transportation network while debt is issued for regular maintenance of the bridge, like the current deck replacement project.
While no major capital projects for Southwest Brooklyn were included in the Capital Plan proposal, it did include more debt being issued for mega projects like the Manhattan Second Avenue Subway, Metro North, and the Long Island East Side Access Project—which is already overrun by 14 years and over-budget by $6 billion.
It is this type of reckless spending that has made the MTA the fifth most indebted government entity after the states of California, Massachusetts and New York, and the City of New York. Lack of priorities on the part of the MTA has led to our public transportation-starved borough, or as our mayor would say –a tale of two cities with “its haves and have-nots.”
Those of us in the outer boroughs consistently have to fight twice as hard for half as much. In 2010, our community lost numerous bus lines and service, and since being elected in 2011, I have worked tirelessly alongside my colleagues successfully to restore and expand service on the B8, B37, B64, S93 and X27.
But we still continue to fight for more transportation options, to improve the inadequate Access-A-Ride service, provide handicap accessibility for our subway stations and for the MTA to complete a feasibility study for a pedestrian walkway and bicycle path on the Verrazano Bridge. These will all improve the quality of life in our community, and we deserve our fair share of the MTA Capital Budget.
A large part of our nation’s focus is on stimulating the economy, improving infrastructure and achieving environmental sustainability—preserving America for future generations. As elected leaders, we continue to work toward making that happen, but we can’t do it without the cooperation of our transportation agencies.
We will never achieve these goals unless the MTA works with us to produce a budget that will provide the transportation alternatives needed in the outer boroughs so that we can limit congestion, reduce dependence on our vehicles, and create a more equitable transportation network.