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As NYC Subway Sits in Disrepair, Politicians Fight Over Whose Job It Is to Fix

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday called on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and MTA officials to "step up" and solve the city's subway woes.

By Laura Figueroa

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday called on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and MTA officials to "step up" and solve the city's subway woes.

De Blasio, speaking at a news conference aboard a Brooklyn F train, blamed the recent subway malfunctions and delays on what he called "irrational" spending by the state.

"Read my lips: They're not spending the money they have, they're not spending it on the right things," de Blasio said.

The mayor's press briefing was delivered as he rode four train stops from Park Slope to downtown Brooklyn, en route to the opening of his new campaign headquarters.

De Blasio, a Democrat who is running for a second term against presumptive GOP nominee Nicole Malliotakis, told volunteers at his new campaign office he was running to build on the initiatives  started in his first term. He cited the success of launching the city's Universal Pre-K program in 2014 and said he'd like to expand the program to include all 3-year-olds by 2021. He also pledged to keep working on boosting the city's affordable housing stock.

"Part of it being your city is... when your needs are responded to," de Blasio said.

The mayor's remarks on the subway were the latest salvo in the ongoing feud between the city and state over which should pay for upgrading the aging transit system.

On Thursday, Cuomo and his newly appointed MTA chairman Joseph Lhota, speaking at separate events, made the argument that the financial obligation to repair the city's subways falls on the city not the state, despite decades of the state's Metropolitan Transportation Authority controlling the day-to-day operations of the region's transit system.

"They own it, they lease it, it's their responsibility to fund it," Lhota said Thursday.

De Blasio on Sunday pushed back on the claim, noting that in the past the governor has embraced the state's control over the MTA and the city's subways.

In January, Cuomo led the inaugural ride of the new Second Avenue subway line, and in previous years has ordered the closure of the city's transit system amid pending storms.

"The governor should step up and say once again he's responsible, because he seems to change that message," de Blasio said.

Lhota, who is expected to complete a 30-day review of the subway system this week, has said he will likely ask the city for more funding for needed upgrades.

De Blasio criticized Lhota's call for more funding, saying the city has already committed $2.5 billion to the MTA's five-year capital plan, adding that the MTA has only spent a portion of that money.

Lhota, in a statement Sunday, criticized de Blasio's remarks.

"What we need is leadership, not photo ops," Lhota said. "The Mayor's comments today were completely disingenuous knowing that the MTA is set to present its 30-day overhaul plan this week. We know we have a problem and our job now is to fix it. It would be best for the people of New York City if everyone stepped up and worked together in those efforts."

Cuomo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(c)2017 Newsday

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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