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“I will not be steamrolled,” New York City Transit chief Andy Byford says of Gov. Cuomo’s push to upend the L-train shutdown. Takes guts — since Cuomo can have him fired with a snap of his fingers.
Still, you can finally see why Cuomo keeps insisting he doesn’t “control” the subways — and why, maybe, he shouldn’t.
To be clear, Byford is favorably inclined to the gov’s idea, but not yet certain it’s sound.
As WNYC’s Gothamist reports, Byford last week told Community Board 3 (which covers the L’s route in Manhattan) that he’s bringing in outside experts to vet the plan’s safety while his own NYC Transit staff reviews how well the L can run under the Cuomo plan.
In fact, the MTA hasn’t yet accepted the gov’s idea, and won’t until at least its Jan. 26 board meeting.
Yes, acting MTA Board Chairman Freddy Ferrer said otherwise at Cuomo’s press conference on the issue — but it takes a vote of the full board to make it so. And Ferrer and the gov’s other appointees don’t make up a full board majority, so they could be outvoted — though that’s unlikely to happen unless Byford risks losing his job by opposing it.
Meanwhile, Cuomo last week told the Daily News editorial board that he wants to “blow up the MTA” because it’s simply not accountable to anyone. This, of course, recalls Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s “blow it up” complaints two decades back about the old Board of Education — except that Rudy really didn’t control that board, whereas Cuomo does effectively dominate the MTA.
Then there’s the specific issues the gov is now griping about: the way the MTA does big-job business with only a handful of (pricey) outside firms, because so few companies are willing to put up with the agency’s constant demands for major contract changes.
Funny: Cuomo’s L-train surprise will require huge contract changes — a fact the gov shrugged off when he announced it.
Plus, MTA exec Pat Foye — moved there from the Port Authority at Cuomo’s bidding — spent the last year working to reform the agency’s contracting habits to generate serious savings.
If he’s had no luck, then something does have to change: MTA construction costs run four or five times the level seen by similar agencies in London and Paris.
One thing, though: For all his talk about the MTA’s failure to do “out-of-the-box thinking,” Cuomo has his own head deep in one seriously cost-increasing box: the organized-labor one.
The gov has never directed his MTA chiefs to wrest serious savings from the agency’s unions, even though worker pay and benefits are its fastest-rising operating costs.
And on the construction side, he’s firmly behind the building-trades unions — when it comes to any public project, and even to many private ones.
Bottom line: Andrew Cuomo has more than enough control of the MTA to get the job done — if he really wants to do it.
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