Protesters at Penn Station took aim Tuesday at both President Donald Trump and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, accusing them of putting Wall Street interests before the needs of the region’s deteriorating rail system.
“No more delays! Cuomo fix the MTA,” chanted some dozen activists with the liberal-leaning groups New York Communities for Change, Alliance for a Greater New York, and Every Voice as they gathered at the Amtrak waiting area.
A report released by the groups Tuesday — a day after the start of an eight-week repair project at the station — demanded Cuomo and Trump to back away from privatizating operations at Penn Station, arguing that so-called public-private partnerships benefit only “connected insiders.”
In May, Cuomo wrote to Trump calling for federal assistance at Penn Station, whose aging infrastructure is controlled by Amtrak. Cuomo recommended that the Port Authority assume control of the station’s operations, or “at a minimum . . . Amtrak should turn over construction and operations to a private sector terminal operator.”
Trump, whose budget proposal cuts $630 million from Amtrak, is a proponent of privatization. His $1 trillion infrastructure spending plan calls for more privatization of public-sector jobs.
The group’s report states Cuomo and Trump should “end giveaways via privatization to Wall Street and real estate insiders,” and instead “raise taxes on the rich and Wall Street to finance” the region’s transit system upgrades.
The report criticizes Cuomo for pushing a $1.6 billion plan to refurbish the Farley Post Office near Penn Station as a new train hall. They argue the plan, funded in part by private companies who will get retail leasing rights at the new hall, mainly benefits those firms while ignoring the immediate needs of MTA commuters grappling with systemwide malfunctions.
They noted that the Moynihan Train Hall project will be funded in part by Vornado Realty Trust, a real estate firm whose chairman and CEO Steven Roth sits on Trump’s infrastructure task force and who has given campaign contributions to Trump and Cuomo.
In a conference call with shareholders last year, company officials touted their role in developing the new station, saying the company believes it “can play an important role in the transformation of this area into the gateway that New York deserves,” according to media reports at the time.
Asked about the report, Cuomo’s spokesman Jon Weinstein said: “Any of the options the Governor proposed for the future of Penn Station — state takeover, Port Authority or private contractor — would be better than the ‘current misery.’ Some people always want to protect the status quo, no matter how broken it is or how much harm it inflicts on New Yorkers.”