Transit advocates and city leaders staged a protest outside Grand Central Terminal on Wednesday, February 22nd. The group of protestors was made up of city leaders including Public Advocate Juumane Williams, representatives from the Transit Workers Union Local 100, and the Riders Alliance. They were calling on Governor Kathy Hochul to increase her budget’s funding for off-peak bus and subway services provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
The group of protestors demanded that Governor Hochul add $300 million to her budget for the aforementioned services. The feeling amongst the protestors is that certain bus and subway services would continue to not perform at the required standards, impacting New Yorkers citywide.
“We have a transit system today that the governor describes as world-class,” said Queens Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani. “You ask any New Yorker across the five boroughs, they will tell you, they are waiting more than 10 minutes for a train. They are on a bus that is going 5 miles per hour. They are at risk of being priced out of one of their most basic human rights, the right to go around their city.”
Governor Hochul has called on the MTA to find ways of saving $400 million, a message the transit advocates have interpreted as a signal to reduce services. According to Gothamist, the MTA had reduced service on Mondays and Fridays in December. Hochul denied that her office was encouraging the reduction of services.
“Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget makes transformative investments to make New York more affordable, more livable, and safer,” said Hochul’s spokesperson Katy Zielinski. “And she looks forward to working with the legislature on a final budget that meets the needs of all New Yorkers.”
Jumaane Williams called on Governor Hochul to adjust specific items in her budget to have more funds to contribute to the MTA. According to AMNY, Williams said at the protest Hochul could reduce the funds she had prospectively assigned to an expanded MTA police force, the $700 million meant for tax breaks for the film industry, and the $400 million meant to provide loans for New York’s failing horse racing industry.
“Just take $50-100 million from each one of those projects, [and] you’ll have the $300 million you need to get our subway moving faster. That’s all you have to do,” said Williams. “Please, just skim some off the top, pretend it’s the Buffalo Bills you want to fund and find the money to fund the MTA.”
Governor Hochul’s budget is still in the proposal stage. The budget must be finalized before April 1st. The budget has received some criticism and complaints for looking to New York City to provide the MTA with $400 million.