2004-10-14 / Front Page

Long-Stalled MTA Private Bus Lines Takeover Jangling Nerves On Both Sides on politics

By John Toscano


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Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been hammered repeatedly by City Councilmembers for his administration’s failure to provide a solution to taking over operation of private bus lines in the city and bringing them under the rule of the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Last week he fired back, charging that many elected officials have gotten campaign contributions from people with vested interests in maintaining the status quo.
However, the mayor didn’t name either the contributors or those who received the contributions. The charges came close to constituting a smear against many of the bus deal critics.
Last week, Councilmember John Liu (D–Flushing) held another hearing of his Transportation Committee on the long, drawn–out negotiations to give the MTA control of the bus lines, most of which operate in Queens.
Liu has repeatedly tried to bring MTA officials as well as members of Bloomberg’s administration before the committee to explain why the takeover hasn’t come about. But the MTA has flatly snubbed the committee and the mayor has stalled by saying ongoing negotiations prevent public discussion of what’s holding up completion of the takeover.
Last week, Liu said he didn’t expect that the MTA will be ready to acquire the private lines by the December 4 deadline.
“It is evident that there is no way to expect this takeover to be completed by the deadline,” Liu said. “From what we’ve gathered at this and last month’s hearings, it is clear that the MTA and the Bloomberg administration are about to blow the deadline for the third time. Unfortunately, their strikeout will result in further decline in bus service. It’s just not acceptable. Enough is enough!”
A few days after Liu’s statement, the mayor issued his charges that political donations are behind the criticism of his being unable to swing the operation of the bus lines over to the MTA. Many lawmakers, however, sincerely believe that the mayor has a lousy plan, and that’s why they’re opposing it. If the mayor is questioning their motives, he should say who he’s talking about and not just drop veiled hints.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been hammered repeatedly by City Councilmembers for his administration’s failure to provide a solution to taking over operation of private bus lines in the city and bringing them under the rule of the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Last week he fired back, charging that many elected officials have gotten campaign contributions from people with vested interests in maintaining the status quo. However, the mayor didn’t name either the contributors or those who received the contributions. The charges came close to constituting a smear against many of the bus deal critics. Last week, Councilmember John Liu (D–Flushing) held another hearing of his Transportation Committee on the long, drawn–out negotiations to give the MTA control of the bus lines, most of which operate in Queens. Liu has repeatedly tried to bring MTA officials as well as members of Bloomberg’s administration before the committee to explain why the takeover hasn’t come about. But the MTA has flatly snubbed the committee and the mayor has stalled by saying ongoing negotiations prevent public discussion of what’s holding up completion of the takeover. Last week, Liu said he didn’t expect that the MTA will be ready to acquire the private lines by the December 4 deadline. “It is evident that there is no way to expect this takeover to be completed by the deadline,” Liu said. “From what we’ve gathered at this and last month’s hearings, it is clear that the MTA and the Bloomberg administration are about to blow the deadline for the third time. Unfortunately, their strikeout will result in further decline in bus service. It’s just not acceptable. Enough is enough!” A few days after Liu’s statement, the mayor issued his charges that political donations are behind the criticism of his being unable to swing the operation of the bus lines over to the MTA. Many lawmakers, however, sincerely believe that the mayor has a lousy plan, and that’s why they’re opposing it. If the mayor is questioning their motives, he should say who he’s talking about and not just drop veiled hints. WEINER ‘CHAMBER’ SPEAKER: Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D–Queens/Brooklyn) will be the featured speaker at tomorrow’s Government Relations Breakfast of the Queens Chamber of Commerce from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the Bulova Corporate Center, 75-20 Astoria Blvd., Jackson Heights.

Weiner, who’s considering running for mayor next year, will discuss his vision for New York City at the event, according to the businessmen’s organization’s announcement.

Last weekend, Weiner blasted the Bloomberg administration schools reorganization plan, alleging that it shortchanges special education students. Weiner charged that under the reorganization, about 10,000 special ed students have had to wait longer than the legal limit of 60 days to be assigned to a class. This has swelled the backlog of unassigned students to almost 29,000 from 13,000.

The Department of Education responded that it has moved 960 special education evaluators back to the classroom from desk jobs.

SEEK LOWER SCHOOL BUS EMISSIONS: Seeking to protect schoolchildren’s health, City Councilmembers John Liu (D–Flushing) and James Gennaro (D–Fresh Meadows) are supporting a Liu bill requiring all school buses to utilize ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel and the best available pollution control technology by the start of the 2005 school year.

At a recent hearing on Liu’s bill before Gennaro’s Environmental Protection Committee, Gennaro said New York state had given $7.5 million last year to meet the goals of the legislation, but about half the buses still did not make the improvements.

“Diesel exhaust is not only a potential carcinogen, but results in asthma and other respiratory problems,” Gennaro stated. “There is absolutely no reason that the vehicles transporting our children should be belching out toxic fumes that jeopardize their health.”

Liu said the legislation would put a stop to the black smoke from buses that is “currently ending up in the lungs of our young children.”

UNIQUE SENIOR AID: There are about two dozen hearing-impaired or deaf seniors at the Peter Cardella Senior Center in Ridgewood, so Borough President Helen Marshall provided $30,000 for the center to hire a sign language interpreter and case management assistant to serve the group.

While she visited the center at 68-52 Fresh Pond Rd. recently, signer Henny Clugston through interpretation of American Sign Language message to the borough president: “My seniors want me to tell you how thankful they are.” About 200 other members present at the time joined in a round of applause for Marshall.

BARKER DIES; FORMER DEM., ST. PAT’S LEADER: James Barker, former Woodside Democratic District Leader and controversial St. Patrick’s Day Parade figure, died recently at age 69, reportedly from pulmonary fibrosis. He was buried last Friday at Calvary Cemetery in Woodside following a funeral mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Barker, known for his jovial, outgoing personality, served as the Woodside Democratic District Leader in the 1970s. Later, he was involved for many years in staging the St. Patrick’s Parade and rose to become the executive secretary and director of the event. Barker repeatedly fought against the inclusion of gays in the parade and opposed efforts by political groups to get involved in the march.

GREEN, FIELDS PUSH KERRY CANDIDACY: Former New York City Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Mark Green will appear as a surrogate speaker for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry at a meeting of the John F. Kennedy Regular Democratic Club of Queens on Thursday evening, October 21 at 78-31 Parsons Blvd., Fresh Meadows. For more information, call 718-591-0100.

Also pushing Kerry’s candidacy will be Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields in an appearance before the Democratic Club of Flushing on Sunday, October 17 at 3 p.m. at the Sheraton Hotel in Flushing. Fields, also a possible candidate for mayor next year, will discuss city issues.

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