Volume 21, Number 51 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 8 - 14, 2009

Free bike rentals
Free bikes are back this summer, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced last Friday morning. Cyclists who register online and reserve bikes in advance, will be able to pick up their free set of wheels seven days a week starting May 13. Thirty bikes will be available for each of three two-and-a-half-hour time slots a day. Silver funded the program and worked with the Downtown Alliance and Bike and Roll, which is providing the bikes at a kiosk on Pier 17 at the Seaport. Registration for the free bikes opens May 12 at DowntownNY.com/bikearound.

Silver’s take on M.T.A. talks

By Josh Rogers

During the final negotiations Tuesday to avoid severe cuts to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he thought about the subway’s bad old days three decades ago.

Without more money in the capital budget it would mean a steady deterioration of the subway system, he said. “We’ve learned the lesson of the ’70s,” Silver told Downtown Express Tuesday afternoon.

At that point, the so-called “three men in a room” — Silver, Gov. David Paterson and State Sen. Majority Leader Malcolm Smith — had left the negotiating table with a tentative deal and Smith thought he could get the elusive 32 Senate votes to pass it.

Silver laid out the evolution of the deal, which went on to pass both houses Wednesday night.

He said a Smith proposal on Monday night would have diverted 25 percent of the new revenue from the capital to the operating budget, and the speaker pushed for more capital dollars. “His numbers didn’t work,” Silver said of the Smith compromise.

In order to cover some of the capital shortfall, the trio agreed to increase the proposed fare hikes from 8 percent to about 10 this year, with subsequent increases of 7 percent in 2011 and 2013. Had they not acted, fares were set to increase by about 25 percent at the end of the month and severe service cuts throughout the system were planned. Silver said there will be no service cuts under the agreement.

He said the “core” part of the five-year capital budget will be covered for two years, when there will likely be a need for more revenue.

There is close to a $15 billion capital deficit and the operating deficit is approaching $1.5 billion.

Prior to the deal’s announcement, there were widespread reports that the payroll tax on the Downstate suburban counties would be 25 cents for every $100 in salary, but Silver said the idea of giving the suburbs a discount from the proposed New York City rate of 34 cents was never discussed in his talks with Smith and the governor. The city rate prevailed across the region so employers will have to pay $340 for every $100,000 in salary to help fund the city and suburban transit system.

There will also be a 50 cent surcharge on taxi fares in New York City.

A spokesperson for Smith did not respond to request for comment Wednesday.

Silver accused the Senate Republicans of “irresponsible representation” for refusing to support any of the compromises proposed. Without mentioning her name, Silver singled out the senator representing Plattsburgh, home to Bombardier Transportation, which builds subway cars for the M.T.A. Silver said since Plattsburgh will not be subject to the payroll tax, the senator, Betty Little, had no good reason to jeopardize jobs in her district.

Little’s son lives across the street from Silver on the Lower East Side, said her spokesperson, Dan MacEntee, so “certainly she’s cognizant of the importance of the M.T.A. capital budget.” MacEntee said traditionally, M.T.A. budgets are done in conjunction with Upstate bridge and road work, and the senator was not prepared to neglect the needs of her district.

A Democratic senator speaking on the condition of anonymity said the deal includes a commitment to add more money for Upstate roads, without identifying the funding source.






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