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MTA chief Joe Lhota apologizes for criticizing Sen. Bill Perkins

Joe Lhota

Joe Lhota Credit: MTA chief Joe Lhota. (Steven Sunshine)

MTA chief Joseph Lhota backtracked Tuesday from comments he made about a state senator who wanted to ban eating in the subways.

Initially, Lhota said he opposed Perkins' bill, which would bring a $250 fine for chowing down underground, because kids often eat breakfast on the train.

"It severely hurts and impacts minority communities," Lhota told the New York Times on Monday. "I don't want to deny the kid the only time that day he's going to get food."

Then Lhota took a shot at Perkins, saying, "As a legislator, he does nothing but talk and talk and talk, and he does nothing."

Lhota issued an apology for the shot and said state Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan) is "an excellent legislator with great constituent services."

"I have a great deal of respect for Senator Perkins," he added.

His comments were called "immature" by state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who said, "Last I checked, it was part of the MTA commissioner's job to collaborate, not pick fights with state legislators."

Perkins told amNewYork he was "disappointed" by Lhota's comments.

"Normally these debates are about the issue ... so I'm baffled," he said. "I don't know why it got racial or even personal."

While Perkins said he accepted the apology, he didn't buy Lhota's statements that a food ban would impact minority communities.

"It's just wrong to claim that one race is more likely than another to consume food on their daily ride to school or work," Perkins said.

In response to Perkins' concerns, an MTA spokesman said, "Chairman Lhota regrets his remarks in their entirety and has apologized for them."

But the agency is still maintaining their opposition to Perkins' legislation.

"The MTA opposes any attempt to ban eating in the subway because in a system as large as ours many people have long trips and need the ability to eat," the spokesman said in an email. "We believe the rat problem can be addressed without banning eating."

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